23 January 2019

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the date I set out on my first backpacking adventure and I thought it might be fun to share with you some of my diary entries from then coupled with my current day thoughts. I’ll do this by creating a summary of each week rather than giving a blow by blow daily account of what I got up to. I may even throw in a few photos on the way. My journey was 10 months in total and took me to Australia, Canada, United States of America, (London) and India, in that order. It might seem strange to have visited India last of all as my direction of travel would have taken in India first, but believe me it was a good decision. Having built up the confidence in the preceding months this allowed me to cope with a country that was so different to any which I had experienced before. 10 months that helped to shape the person I am today.

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Week 1

23 January 1994 – 21:09 hrs – London Heathrow.

Well, this is me, departure lounge at Heathrow. Can’t really believe I am here. Salisbury has been on flood alert all of this past week, I never knew I had so much inside of me waiting to come out. I have a feeling of deja vu at the moment; it has been with me for the past few days. I am on a journey with a goal in mind, but as it gets closer I realise that I do not know why I am doing it at all. I have been searching for myself forever and looking for love. I have love now, so I guess I am still looking for me. I ride through a tunnel, it is dark and there is no atmosphere, just blankness. My mind has disappeared, I simply have no thoughts about what it is I am doing here, and then suddenly I come close to reaching my destination and I come through the tunnel. I guess I am very apprehensive and quite simply lonely. This is something I should be sharing.

The flight is ok so far and, yes, I knew they would do this, a full meal, they call it supper, at 12:00 midnight, yeuk! I will eat it anyway as I have paid for it. And so to bed, for a few hours at least.

24 January

Did not sleep well, may have had half an hour shut eye. Breakfast at 6 am (2 pm Singapore time). The first leg of the journey over. It is 7 pm here in Singapore, looks like it may rain. I looked out of the window on the plane, we were floating on fluffy cotton buds, twixt earth and heaven. A bit like my life at the moment, all up in the air. Flight from Singapore to Perth, smaller plane, only 4 hrs trip, but did not enjoy so much. Fewer tourists on board, mainly locals. Still more food. More calm now and looking forward to touch down. Although having said that, I feel secure up in the air, once down I am on my own for real, despite being met by Ron and Celia.

25 January – 0:30hrs

Arrived half an hour early. A little rainy, but still warm. I recognised Ron and Celia straight away, but they did not remember me, I looked a right mess anyway so I don’t think they would have stood a chance. Celia
thought it was cold, but it isn’t, even with the wind blowing.

I feel strange being in another person’s house. I think I would prefer to be on my own in a hostel or something. It was suggested that I ring home tonight (morning), but I will wait until the evening of the 25th as I do not think I could cope with it right away. 2:45am, so signing off now, I shall sleep forever.

Did not rise until 12 noon. House seems strange, more like a holiday villa, will get used to it soon. Went around Armadale this afternoon, everything seems so spread out. I guess because not much is built at two storey, all on one level, there is certainly plenty of room to spread out here.  Not too big a place, shopping malls all under cover, a few businesses dotted around. Mainly a residential area. Much the size of Wilton probably. I do not feel able to dash off and do my own thing whilst here, feel obliged to wait until taken to places. It may be too secure a start, home from home type thing.

26 January – Wednesday, Australia Day! A bank holiday.

The flag was flying in Herriard Road. They all go on about how proud they are to be Australian. The Brits do take quite a battering, don’t know why. I would not want to live here though, despite the laid back life-style. It is too hot and the openness and extrovert nature of the younger generation would be too much to handle. Maybe the east side is different. Tonight on the train back from Perth, the carriages were packed with young people (teenagers) who all seemed to be drunk, stoned, whatever, and they were loud mouthing it and dancing to music. I thought I was on a par with young people but this is a bit above me and so loud. I must be getting old. Celia told me that a lot of kids don’t stand a chance of getting jobs now, so they just blow their dole money on having a wild time and saying sod the rest of the world, it’s going to end soon anyway. Around 6-8 years ago jobs were ok and most 20/22 year olds bought their own houses and most have already finished paying off their mortgages at 30yrs old, it’s unreal. They have 2/3 cars, everything. Even Ron and Celia have two houses. We are going down to the beach house for the weekend. There is more opportunity to make something of yourself through schooling. Because a lot of places (towns, cities) are so isolated or 1000’s of miles from the next, like everywhere in Western Australia, (Perth is the most isolated city in the world), they tend to have everything you can think of on their doorstep. 3 universities for W.A. alone. If it is there and you don’t have to travel far, you make the most of facilities and work hard. I hate myself for not being more aware or more alive when younger. Almost forgot to say that we went to the annual light show in Perth tonight, always held on Australia Day. Quite a big fireworks display, had some really good ones go off. All the city’s traffic came to a standstill, it was like a mass protest marching through. We stopped off for a coffee to let the masses die down. Still catching up with myself and the time differences.

27 January – The earliest I have been up this morning, 09:00hrs.

Celia took me around Perth centre, for shopping and to see some sights. Experienced a slice of Princess Cake, full of calories and messy, but we enjoyed it. Walked around an art gallery, quite contrasting exhibits on show. One sector was all Aboriginal paintings, they are quite samey to look at, but very colourful and all tell a story. Wacky contemporary and modern art and quite decent fine art by Ozzie artists. All buildings seem quite new in the city centre, very big and modern and everything seems to link into another. Shopping much the same as in England, except more food outlets. Actually did the washing up at tea, which makes me feel pretty good. Have now got some times and prices for coach travel between major cities, so will map out a route soon. I will stay for another week and half or two.

Why is it a lot of countries dislike the original natives of their lands. With Americans it was Indians, South Africans the black people and Australia the Aborigines. A little ancestry still showing through perhaps, after all most Australians are immigrants themselves.

28 January – Up early today, 08:30hrs

Busied about getting ready for the weekend. Beach house not too far away. Stopped off at a couple’s house for refreshment. It would seem that most of them think that the world looks down on Australians and try to defend themselves constantly. They think that Britain should adopt the same way
of life as Oz, mainly on the economic side. Why should Britain have dollars and cents, do the rest of Europe, no, but does that bother them, does it heck. Australia is a continent and Europe is a continent, wouldn’t it be boring if everyone was the same. I think UK is unique and should stay that way.

The beach house is much the same as their town house. Went to the beach with Ron. My first dip in the Indian Ocean. The beach was virtually deserted, just us and one other family to start with. The sand seemed to go on for miles either side and the sea was beautiful. Bit choppy to swim, but had fun dodging the waves. Had Celia told me about the sea snakes much further up the coast, I may not have gone in. Have got a little sunburn and I hardly stayed in the sun. Must make sure I use some lotion next time. By the way, we are now at a place called Singleton. The sea breezes are quite strong and almost constant, deceivingly so.

29 January –

I am coping with the heat quite well, wore my hat for the first time today down to the beach. The breeze is refreshing but still very hot in the sun. Slapped on the sun lotion today. Sea was much calmer. Ron came down
to do a rescue mission in case I had frazzled without realising it. He drove down and it is only a five minute walk. I came back on foot, I am missing out so much on exercise. Went around Mandurah this morning, very seasidey type of place. Just off of the centre is a residential area built around man made canals. All gardens go down to the water so that they can hop straight into their boats. Very exclusive and very tasteful as well. Not as many swimming pools as you might imagine in the suburb areas. Everything reminds me of holiday villages with chalets. So peaceful strolling along the water front under a star lit sky. We all sat and set the world to right before bed.

Current day thoughts

I’ve had to cut out quite a lot of my entries, some too personal and some not very PC. We have to be PC these days. Diaries can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Should mention that Ron and Celia Penny were very good friends of my parents, dad grew up with Ron. They emigrated to Australia in 1969 with their two children. I had seen them once in that time when they came back to visit in UK some years later. Seems that employment issues are the same worldwide and the young no different. We don’t always see it on others’ doorsteps. Three universities in Western Australia, it seemed a lot. There are 5 now. I suppose not so surprising when you consider the size of the area and the growing population. I think more logically these days. There appeared to be a lot of problems between the Aborigines and Australians, I am sure there still is but I think in general indigenous cultures are given more of a voice these days. I still wish I had pushed myself harder when younger. Interesting to know my thoughts on UK back then (I knew nothing about the EU and what they did). I don’t think that way now; I think we should become more like Australia in that they use more of their own resources to keep the economy stable. I know nothing about the economy but it seems that way anyway.

I still don’t cope with heat well and I still burn in the sun.

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Week 2

30 January – It’s hot today. Still very tired. I don’t want to get out of bed but I drag myself out before 09:00hrs. Adrian and Shae rolled up mid-morning. Shea is 2½ years old and she still looks like a baby, but she is a fun thing and lively. We all went down to the beach for an hour or two. The sea seemed quite calm but the wind picked up and the waves rolled in. I had quite a frightening experience at one point. A wave broke over me and completely swept me off my feet. I thought I was going to drown. I think my eyes were open, all I could see was swirling water all around me and I somersaulted from the force. I couldn’t get out of the water quick enough. My whole head was filled with water. I can’t imagine how surfers manage to survive some of the big waves. After Adrian had gone, in his 22 year old banger, we packed up and sped off home, stopping a Reg and Elsie’s to say goodbye.

Came home via the country roads. Every so often we came across areas where bush fires had taken hold. They can happen at any time, anywhere and if the wind is blowing you’ve had it. Most are kept under control before spreading to houses. Even as we drove there was some in the distance,
probably Rockingham area. I think 20 years ago the whole area of W.A. was
mainly vegetation, now housing areas are going up everywhere. Overpopulation will make its way to Oz sooner or later.

Tea on the veranda, I thought lunch was the main meal, oh well, its only calories piling on. No sea breezes in Armadale, the fan is a definite must this evening. Starting to work out some routes now. With all that Ron and Celia have planned for me, it will be a 3 weeks stay. I will never be able to thank them enough. Ron rang my mum and dad tonight, I did not realise he was going to, we all had a little chat.

31 January – One week nearly over already, certainly the most mixed January I have ever had, weather wise. Kevin must have been sad
yesterday, I can imagine how sad and lonely he is, I hope he manages to occupy his time ok. Have to admit that I have not been missing him as much as I should. There has been so much to do and see even in this short week and planning my next move as well.

Today was definitely the hottest it has been, but that didn’t stop us going out. First the weekly shopping was done, there seems to be much more choice available especially in the fruit and veg line. After lunch a leisurely drive down to the Serpentine Dam. It is very pretty driving through the vast woodland, so many shades of green with the odd touch of greyish blue.
Certainly a wildlife day. The Dam is massive and supplies most of the area with water. However the water was very low, makes you realise how precious the stuff is here. Stopped off at a Bar-B-Q area and fed the wild parrots with bread.


They come and land all over you, arms, legs, head, for a feed. Scratched my
arms to pieces and ruined what little hair style I had. They were so lovely and tame.


Saw my first Kookaburra, he wanted his share of the bread, only at a distance.


Also saw an electric blue coloured wren.

On the way home passed a dead kangaroo on the roadside. Nobody moves them, the crows will have a picking or two and other small creatures. Can’t wait to see one alive and kicking in the wild, love to see a koala too. Lots of Black Boy trees around, pictures do not depict them very well, you have to see one to understand their given name. Along the woodland areas you come across burnt patches, which is known as controlled burning. If the trees are already burned the natural fires should peter out at these points as there is no more in their path to burn. Golly I’ve learned a lot today. Near to the Serpentine Dame is a garden of Aboriginal design. It is of a snake weaving through areas of water in the hope that its presence will bring much water. This comes from the Aboriginal period known as ‘Dream Time’, from which most of their art work drives.

Met Celia’s parents later on. Dick is in his 80’s and likes to wear loud clothes, he was all in bright red today. Her mum makes you feel at home straight away. Nice down to earth house with granny type furnishings. Supper outside again and a very calming spout on the hammock.

1 February – Paid the price of sitting out last night, covered in mossie bites. A stark contrast in the weather, 40’s yesterday, only 25 today.

Went to King Park in Perth had a fantastic view of the city, it really is a massive place. Everywhere you turn in this state you will see a barbecue, no need to go hungry or have to spend out a fortune. The barbecue is a national pass-time.

Next, to Freemantle, via Cottesloe, where we had a spot of lunch. Freemantle is a seafaring town. The shipping docks are along this part of the coast line. The next biggest place down from Perth I guess. The older buildings have remained intact which gives the place more of an
atmosphere. Lots of good shopping, I will have to watch my step. Most people would probably stick to the town centres, but there can be lots to see on the outskirts. The Round House for instance, not a wonderful sight, but a piece of Freemantle history nonetheless. It is an old prison where the naughty sailors were banged up. Conditions looked extremely basic, probably only a foot square window in the top left of cramped cells.

Some points to think about are rail crossings, it is so easy to get carried away with everything around you that you do not concentrate on the lines. The crossings are not well protected. Some lines run through the middle of towns. Driving – would probably not cost a lot to buy an old banger (cars last for years over here). Roads and freeways are very straight and long,
no banks to hide view. In Western Australia there is hardly any traffic on
roads so driving can be erratic, no stopping at junctions or when turning corners. Again, rail crossings spring up from nowhere, no barriers or anything, maybe a few flashing lights. It is only in the cities that you get a build-up of traffic. On the whole people amble about and do not look where they are going.

I can imagine some people had houses in very secluded parts with nice settings. Now highways run close by and housing estates pop up everywhere and the whole atmosphere is ruined. Seems every spare bit of land is being built on. I know that there is plenty of space here but it is a shame. And being mainly one storey the area of land taken by one house is quite a lot.

Forgot to mention the pioneering village yesterday. A look at Victorian life. There is a school, which we did not get to see, where the children etc all dress up in authentic gear. Also gold panning and olde worlde shoppes. A shame that they had to stick an amusement arcade in one of the buildings.

Something else I learned today, which annoyed me slightly. Ex-Pats who have not taken Australian citizenship still get a British pension. Mind you, the amount remains static from the time you leave the UK. Plus they
get full Ozzie pension as well. No wonder pensions in the future are
jeopardised. I know a lot of the people paid taxes etc. but that is not the
point.

2 February – Thought to myself if the shower this morning, could have used a shower gel that does for hair as well. Would have cut down on weight in the rucksack. Glad I did not bring any dressy clothes, we haven’t gone out much in the evenings and nobody dresses up here anyway. Casual all the way. Just one smart skirt that folds up small will suffice.

Started to think about the format for my book. Got some good advice from Shirley Conran’s book, ‘Down with superwoman’. Looking around I see a lot of second-hand bookshops with plenty bargains. So, if it’s too hot and you fancy sitting quietly in the shade somewhere, pick up a book and read, you may improve your mind.

Taking a short interlude from diary type things to remark on some useful hints. Do join the YHA, you can get a 10 per cent discount on certain things, which is handy from travel tickets point of view. I gave bus company two routes to work on and asked them to calculate the cheapest way to get from A to B. Give the actual travel dates and days you wish to start at each point. 7 day passes can be used for any 7 days (non-consecutive) in a one month period. With YHA discount = $170.00. Before you start out, calculate and
average amount per day for travel, accommodation and food. You will find that through searching out information you probably will not spend your total quota each day, so do treat yourself to the odd excursion every so often. By the end of your stay you could buy a nice souvenir for yourself. Souvenirs – the most stupid tradition ever invented. A trip like this should be purely for your self-indulgence. Unless you are a reckless youth who has just decided to up-anchor, you will have spent months, even years, like me, saving every penny. Travel light with a rucksack, that way you are restricted with space. Use the YHA to stay in, they are cheap and are not that uncomfortable for a night’s sleep. During the day you will be out. If you find that there is no room at a hostel, YMCA, YWCA are in most cities. The hostel may tell you where a cheap hotel is. Sometimes I wish I could head off and take things as they come, but where travel and accommodation is concerned I like to be organised. If you can book all bus routes up and pay at the start, you know how much money is left to spend and you don’t have to worry. Forward booking accommodation means you have somewhere direct to head for. Travel in Australia can take a day or two and at unsociable hours. If you are a woman travelling on her own you do not want to be wandering around bewildered once at your destination. There is danger all around. People will also know to expect you. Every other aspect of your trip can then be taken at leisure. Plan to spend the first day forward planning and finding your way around a city. The rest of the time is yours.

Back to today – a very overcast dull day, but pleasantly warm. Spending most of the day deep in thought. Finished one roll of film yesterday, good idea of Kevin’s to use masking tape to record what is on the roll for future developing. (Post cards – if a lot in one area send in one envelope, mark ‘card only’, the rate is cheaper and you save on postage). Apologise if I waffle, my mind is all a buzz at present.

Paid a visit to Daphne, one of Celia’s yoga friends. She is part Indian and lives up in the hills on the outskirts of Armadale.

(I have some James Galway classical music on in the background. I can concentrate more with classical music in the background, I have found that with writing poetry, it inspires me with feeling.)

Daphne and Celia gabbled on and Ron and I sat back and ate cake. Delicious at that, banana buns and shortcake. Nothing really to write, about the day. A reflective, organising day. Some of the houses in the hills look very exclusive, it gets colder in that area due to the higher altitude. Spoke to Bridget on the phone, wasn’t sure what to say, so didn’t hang around long. I hate talking on phones.

3 February – Learnt a helpful tip today, always carry a spare beer in your bag. You can easily bribe an Ozzie with a beer.

Walked around Armadale Museum this morning. Apparently Ron and Celia have never taken a visitor there before, I am the only intelligent one that has stayed with them. The oldest exhibits are aboriginal. It is interesting to see how technology has come on, in the past 100 years, quite sad too. Next to the History House Museum are two buildings: Armadale’s first church and Primary School. They originally stood in ‘Third Road’, but were moved to Minnawarra Parks historic precinct. Not taken in pieces either, but as a whole, quite a haul. There are an enormous amount of parks in each town/city, very shady, very peaceful.

Drove up into the hills again to Kalamunda. An orchard/horticultural type area. Had a nice afternoon tea. Some of these small towns are very nicely situated, but can be all shops and cafes. I would like more to see. But as Ron pointed out, buildings are not the thing here, wildlife is. Some of the larger cities have some fantastic modern buildings. Made our way to Churchman’s Brook reservoir, the water is out of bounds but did look inviting. A nice picnic spot under shade, with a stream trickling through. I could lose myself in places like that.

Good old fish and chips in paper for tea, no messy washing up tonight. Decided to test some of my poetry out on Celia for an opinion.

4 February – Today’s tip, (for women only), one that I poached. If washing a limited supply of undies is a pain every other day, wear a panty shield. Dispose of at end of the day and your undies are fresh for another day.

Managing to keep up my exercises before breakfast, all the calorific food I am eating, I need to.

Into Perth to book my bus ticket, glad that is all sorted. Took a detour through the Royal Perth Hospital. A massive 13 storey building. It seems to me that a lot of countries have a similar code in the design of the hospitals. Charity shops, refreshment area, cashier etc. Had lunch in one of the malls. Shopped ‘til we dropped, (not really). Stayed around the house for the rest of day. Walked under an amazing fig tree in Perth. It grows on the sidewalk, or rather, the sidewalk grows around it and it spans the entire road in a kind of umbrella shape.

5 February – It rained today, very hard, but only for 5 minutes, been a mixed day weather wise. Cold to an Oz, but pleasantly warm to me. The chores were done this morning. Felt tired over lunch so rested before we went to visit Celia’s mum in Armadale hospital.

Popped to Wongan Dam. Quite spectacular piece of architecture surrounded by forest. Afternoon tea was at the Elizabethan Village pub, a home from home English pub. They have Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s house, his birth place.

Sat through a plate of hot chilli con carne, a Ron special. The ice cream went down well. Got lost in my music earlier on, like a dreamer in my late teens. Jean and Malcolm came round for the evening. From Coventry, moved here 9 years ago. She would prefer to go back and live Coronation Street style.

Current day thoughts

Not much editing this week. Staying with the natives is a very good way to see the best things and get to know how things really are. I really started to get into jotting down travel tips to make life easier so sorry for rambling on. Celia was a good source for these too. It really was lovely to be so immersed in the wildlife that I had only read about in books before and the kookaburra took me back to my Girl Guide days when we sang the song about the ‘kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree…’ I feel warm thinking about the weather which is great as it is cold in London today. Nothing this week to compare to now.

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Week 3

6 February – You can tell that I have had a dreary few days, I am writing a load of drivel, maybe it’s time to move on. Feels like a two week package holiday, you eventually have enough of the same kind of living and want a change. The coming week will be a refreshing break. Much cooler today,
24 degrees. It was a Shae day, picked her up at Adrian’s. He has a nice house, but could do so much more inside. Adrian wanted to snooze so would not have been much fun hanging around the house. Spent the afternoon trying to keep Shae amused.

Tired today so glad for a rest. Finished the famous Chilli for tea. My music still makes me cry a little. I associate each record with different things. I really feel in the need of a cuddle tonight.

A tip for the bachelor pad. Keep one fridge by the bed so that you can stretch over for a beer and the other under the TV, so you don’t have to move far for beer whilst a movie is on.

7 February – It definitely rained today. We got up early and headed off for Albany, approx 545kms from home on the highway. Four hours going along a straight road, it did have the odd bend in it, but we did not have to turn off once. Stopped off at Kojonup for lunch. I could quite easily have nodded
off, the scenery was so boring and samey. The weather turned nice once we
arrived, however, the two olds donned trousers and sweat tops, it was fairly
cool, yes, but cold, no way. Saw a bunch of pelicans by the shore. It would
have been good to have seen just one, but ten, it was wonderful. Had a look at the Amity, replica of a ship landed in 1826, by Major Edmund Lockyer, really quite a small and flimsy, considering the strength of the sea, the Residency Museum, depicting sea life, wildlife and the history of the area and the Old Gaol Museum, again very nautical. Middleton beach – beautiful soft sand with calm waters to bathe in, a well-adapted seaside town. Would not get too hot in this part of WA. An old town on the whole unspoiled. Dog Rock – bit of a let-down tourist attraction. At one angle the rock resembles the shape of a dogs head. It just rests along the street side, if you did not know it was there you would miss it. Hoping for some spectacular scenery tomorrow. I remember likening the houses to holiday villas, well the place we are staying in is definitely how I remember some of the chalets we used to stay in, very 60’s.

8 February – Two weeks, and a hectic two weeks at that.  Seems like I have been away for ages, can’t imagine how the next 7½ months will go. Maybe once I am out on my own it will go quicker. R & C have crammed a lot in, although up to now distances travelled have been minimal. Feel very tired, I will never have the strength to work again, I must try to keep my mind active. Off to the rugged coast line to the tourist attractions. First, Mount Clarence, not too much of a trawl to the top. You have an all-round view of Albany town, the Southern Ocean, the highway leading to the town and the main of the coastline. Situated on the mount is a bronze statue of the Desert Corps Memorial, shipped from Port Said, Egypt. This is only a replica, the original can be found in one of Albany’s museums. Commemorates the War 1916-18. The coast line forms part of a national park to protect its natural beauty. With the main of attractions you will never find them swamped with visitors, thus enabling you to have a leisurely look. The Gap, a massive recess in the cliff side. On a fierce day waves can thunder up over the sides. Spectacular rock formations, but also extremely dangerous. Safety barriers are there for protection. The Bridge, a horizontal column of rock that forms a bridge across one section of the cliffs. Again, a stupid thing to want to climb down too close, the waves swell up so far, one freak wash and you go into the water. Just as magnificent from a distance. Observe the rules and a happy holiday is had by all. Blow holes – was not sure quite what to expect. These are fissures in the rocks which form holes into the caves underneath. The sea rushes into the caves with such a force that the pressure forces a blast of air up through the cracks and equally sucks air back through by force. Occasionally the sea splashes up through, today we could only see some spray. The sea in this area is made up of the most pretty blues and dazzling surf. The Whale Station, now thankfully dormant, is a museum, $5
to look around, only worth looking around if you are interested in yet more
nautical history. The whaling stopped here in the 1970’s, not so long ago. Easy to imagine the boats bringing in their catch to be butchered for oil. A
barbaric way to earn a living. Sharks used to swim the waters, for a tit bit or
two, the blood drew them. The waters of Albany have seen many wars. The ships that carried soldiers to war set sail from the port. How peaceful they seem now. Albany is potentially a good spot for a large port, but has little in the way of industry, agricultural exports only, tourism is now the main source of income. So many beauty spots to stop and take in. We could drive the car along the sand to Emu Point, time for a nice rest watching the pelicans on the water.

Pub grub for dinner, very nice, but I hate eating late. How pretty the lights
of Albany look at night, set into the hillside. Am managing money ok so far,
must remember to hold back $20 tax. Have to admit it was a little chilly
tonight. Tip – Out on the town, hungry, can’t drive home. Go order a home
delivery meal and ask the driver to take you home as well.

9 February – Mixed bag sort of day, rain, sun, chill. It is about 21 degrees and to see R & C you would think it was the middle of winter. Even now C has put the fan heater on. You can certainly pick out the tourists – shorts, t-shirts. Arrived in Pemberton mid-afternoon, via Denmark and Warpole. Stopped off at Williams Bay, a beautiful shoreline set in national park territory. A barrier of rock provides a tranquil area to bathe, the water is clearer than clear. We walked along the massive rock formations to some
spectacular surf crashing in on them, did I spot Stonehenge on the horizon? A lot of shrub areas are out of bounds to replenish the foliage. Could have
brought my cossie down and stayed for a while, but for C, who was freezing and doesn’t like sand anyway, or water come to think of it. The journey to
Pemberton covered immense areas of forest, sections of which housed many dead trees, a bunch together look quite stunning. Some of the settlements we pass through are quite self- contained as they are miles from the next village/town.  Easy to see how you can lose touch with reality.

Our unit in Pemberton is a bit more upmarket than Albany. We have towels provided and soap.

Went to see the Gloucester Tree, 200 feet high, used as a look out many years ago. It still is today and many more trees surround it. Pemberton has a timber industry that dates back years. Today members of the public can climb the tree to the watch tower at the top, where a little man waits for you. Wooden slats and metal rungs provide a spiral ladder up the tree side. If it were not for the metal rungs I would have gone up, possible to the top. The wooden slats were solid, but the metal was rounded and you could easily slip, with no safety net, I would not risk it, did the first ten for the camera’s sake. Ron climbed to the top six years ago, the view must be fantastic. Judging by the visitors’ book, only macho idiots have made the ascent.

Bar meal again tonight, nowhere to go for an evening stroll so back to the shack. Have to admit, the Gloucester Tree is a challenge but I thought it would look more spectacular. A lot of the trees are very tall, but spindly. I thought I might see some humongously thick ones. Have to wait until Canada for that.

10 February – We found paradise today. Followed the coast back up the west to Bussleton, much warmer day, via, Nannup, Augusta, Cape Leeuwin and Margaret River. Never seem to stay long in these places. I could quite easily have stayed in some of the places all afternoon, sitting in the sun and watching the waves roll in. If I hadn’t known different I would have said we were driving through English countryside. Walked up to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. At this point the Southern and Indian Oceans meet, how cold one side seems to the other. Some high rollers coming in today.

This is timber trade country, small towns who survive on trade and tourism. You need hotels in these little places because it is such a long drive to reach
anywhere. We drove for miles without seeing another vehicle. New highways being constructed everywhere, seems that roads and small towns have really expanded over the last 24 years. Real estate is big business.

The Jewel Cave – Ron and I went on a tour of the cave, I am glad that we did. I have never seen such wonderful stalactites and stalagmites before, doubt I shall again. Some of the formations resembled clumps of trees, in certain light you can see a whole forest. A lot of formations were 1000’s of years old and no one was allowed to touch anything, so as not to disturb any progress the tites and mites might be at. The cave has a natural skylight, which is covered with a door now, so that dust etc from outside does not spoil inside. Even people breathing and particles from the clothes we wear can affect the colour, formation etc, of the calcite columns. A very worthwhile tour that I shall never forget with stalactites, mites, straws, corals, cauliflower formations, calcite flow rocks.

Margaret River for lunch, a very tranquil spot in the sun. Saw the Blackwood River, which is big news at the moment. An Algae bloom is forming and polluting the river. An awful lot of wine is produced around the Margaret River area. At the mouth of the river, at Margaret River, is a fantastic bay, a spot where championship surfing is done. I doubt the wind ever stops blowing here, the surf is an amazing sight. Today the water was full of windsurfers, very skilled ones. I could have watched them for hours, it was quite fascinating. Nothing else but sand and sea, no tea rooms, souvenirs, nothing. The Ozzies don’t seem to need any accessories to enjoy themselves. And so the Bussleton, quite a big town, and very seasidey.
Walked along to the 700m pier, part of which was blown away a few years ago by a cyclone, now rebuilt with conrete and reinforced all along. A section right at the end is still to be treated, it looked very wonky, makes a nice stroll on a summer day. Very breezy today, wouldn’t trust it on a gale force day, it is not very wide and only has a safety rail on one side. Dirty stop outs that we are, stayed out until eight o’clock, nice dinner though. If it is warm first thing tomorrow, I might take a dip in the motel pool. By the way it is the ‘Paradise Motel’.

11 February – Back on the trail home today and never gladder,
it has been so hot, and in a car, just couldn’t handle it. Came via Bunbury,
Harvey and Mandurah. No time for a dip anywhere except Singleton, too tired and
drawn by then. Too late to see the dolphins in the bay at Bunbury, they come in
at certain times each day, those who are fortunate enough to see them, feed
them. The Greenpeace people are up in arms about it as they say that the
dolphins will get too used to it and could damage their survival in the
ocean. A complex is being built, so soon
the place will simply become a money making venture, as per usual. Next stop
was a large construction area at Dawesville.
A massive estuary is being dug through from the sea to the Harvey
Estuary. There has been a massive growth of Algae in the existing estuary and
it is felt that a rush from the sea may clear the area and solve the problem.
However, there is one problem that I can see. The surrounding area is being
developed into housing, hotel, golf course, quite a complex. Don’t they realise
that by clearing one sort of pollution another strain is being created……by
human greed.

Australia is a relatively undeveloped country (well W.A. at
least) and there has been a sudden rush to build everywhere. Soon
overpopulation will come. And it isn’t just Australia, it is all over the
world. Anywhere that we head for on vacation suddenly booms and the whole
culture of a country is swamped. Not that white Australians have any real
culture of their own, it is all imported and thus the same as any other western
developed country. The Aborigines have culture, but the white man has made sure
that he has taken the best parts for himself and left the natives to struggle.
Celia said to me, after I tried to defend the Aborigines, by saying, that this
was originally their land that has been taken from them, –

“but before them the land belonged to the
animals.” I found that comment very sad, not a very strong argument at
all. There is plenty of land here, but
the only real habitable areas are around the edges and before long there will
be no natural vegetation left, because of the people who wave 1000’s of dollars
in the air and say, “I want this so I’m going to have it”, regardless.
The Aborigines have more respect for the land than any race I know. They build
their lives around nature and understand it, unlike today’s white man who
simply expect nature to live around them.
The Aborigines are expected to abide by government rules and fit into
the community, but how can they when the racists don’t want them and why should
they when they know what is best. I was told that I would return home a
different person and already my attitude has changed over a lot of things.

Visited a National Trust house in Wannerup, 150 years old.
The Layman family lived here. A lovely house built of wood with a veranda all
around. Made to last and not in a perfect way, the erraticness of the veranda
was quite charming. Two buildings in all, one for general
living/eating/sleeping and one for domestic purposes, cooking/laundry etc.
Blacksmith, stables, barn. A self contained family life. Implements that were
used as recently as 1940/50, just around the corner. Furnishings were
beautifully made and made to last. Oh, to live again! how cruel time can be,
and how sad for our children. The lady who works there was very interesting and
a clever historian. I had a chuckle at one point. On one of the walls in the
house was a picture of Salisbury Cathedral.

I am a day behind with writing this so may miss a few
details. Went to Sizzlers for evening meal, it’s an American import. We spent too long travelling and I just wanted
to flake out.

12 February – Hot, hot day, went to Toodjay to see some
people. My patience with these ex pat, WA’s has hit boiling point today. I want
to move on and meet some real Ozzies. I am never impressed with people who try to
impress, whilst at the same time try to degrade all that it is I am. I never
came away to see how well ex pats have managed, I came to see the sights, to
see some culture and in WA, unless you travel northwards, you will not get it.
The majority of immigrants were given W.A. to live in, it the forgotten state.
I wonder why! They get around it by saying that it is the best kept secret in
the world, well I don’t want to share your secret and I certainly will not
spread it. What a difference my opinion has taken on since the start of my
trip. Judy and Allan have bought a small holding and it is quite a project to
take on, however, Allan does not know the land, his veggies, fruit trees etc
never came to be. They have moved around
a lot and have now possibly settled for good. Tried to spot some kangaroos in
the hills, there were two or three, but could only see through binoculars.
Still, my first sighting of live ones.

Desperately wanted to catch up with my writing last night,
but Celia interrupted and it was eleven o’clock before we knew it.

Current
day thoughts

If
I never mentioned it before, Adrian is Ron and Celia’s son and Shae is his
daughter, she was 2 at the time.

I
guess we are all hypocrites to a certain point. Life evolves and becomes about the survival
of the fittest, it always has been that way.
Plant life evolved to animals, animals to humans and everything on this
earth was given so as to adapt and survive.
We all live in homes that were once fields or woodland. We are all concerned about the future of
wildlife but to what cost to humankind, we have to survive too, but the more we
are given the more we take without any thought as to how it came to be. When I visit a country for the first time I
always have a romantic picture of that country in my head of how I want it to
be, derived from movies or historical cultural reference, but when I get there
I find a mismatch of culture that doesn’t quite hit the mark, and the reason is
partly because of the likes of me visiting the country in the first place. Every country tries to accommodate the
tourists and once they do that the whole beauty of the place is destroyed. Old cultural practices are found either in
museums, or specially laid on shows because the natives don’t really live that
way anymore, they live in the society that has evolved around them in order to
survive. Greed is everywhere. Greed is creating a world that one day may
destroy us.

*******************************************************************

Week 4

13 February – Sunday – day of rest. I have calmed down a bit now. Was up at 9am
but didn’t show my face until 12 noon. Finished off yesterday’s diary in peace
and quiet. Managed to pack most of my stuff into the rucksack, think I have it
well balanced out. Just want to be left alone today. Had breakfast for lunch.
It is cooler today, but I feel restless. Walked into Armadale this afternoon,
thought I would never reach it. I wanted to check out opening times for banks
in case I couldn’t get any change for tomorrow. Bought an Ice cream and drink
and settled in the park. Hardly anyone around except this weird looking guy
with a bull terrier. He parked himself quite near to me so I walked back home.
Adrian and Shae were there so that was the end of my quiet day. They stayed for
tea an soon went, Shae was getting moody. I will probably never see her again.

An evening of sitting in front of the TV, which, of course,
the Ozzies never do, but which everyone seems to be doing tonight. Ask anyone
outside of this continent to name an entertainer, or even better, a handful of
Ozzie entertainers and I bet only a couple will come out. Why, because the
Ozzies want to keep what they have and not share with the rest of the world. They
are getting a bit paranoid about losing anything of their own, they could
freeze themselves out. Somebody wrote in to a TV station and said, ‘I came out
to Australia 30 yrs ago and returned to Britain in 1980 and was shocked to know
that it was not the same England’ that she once knew. ‘If Australia was not
careful it could be heading the same way by letting foreigners in.’ Was she not
a foreigner herself? Where do these people come from. Enough whinging, I want
to enjoy my last day.

14 February – A day for getting sorted. I knew R & C
would not want any money for my stay, swines, will have to buy something extra
to put with the frame. Went into Perth
to sort some things out. Booked into the hostel in Adelaide, paid on credit
card. Wandered and wandered around the arcades, I find them all a bit too much
and I couldn’t find what I wanted. Did have a rest for lunch. Finally found
what I wanted in a shop that I had passed a thousand times and didn’t think to
go in. Glad that it wasn’t too hot. Felt bad about not going around to see
Celia’s mum and dad, I did want to but the time just went. She did phone me
tonight though, what a nice lady, she can’t see any wrong in anyone. Not
feeling sad about moving on, not sure how I really feel, a touch excited,
nervous, who knows. I feel more confident after going into town on my own. Try to blend in that’s the trick, you will
not get noticed. Popped over to Muriel and Colin’s to say goodbye. Had a trial
run with the rucksack, hanging a bit on the bum but guess I’ll get used to it.
I will have to do some more exercises to keep my strength up. The presents can
wait until tomorrow. To bed early tonight.

15 February – On the road for real now, can’t believe it. I
didn’t sleep too well, maybe a little anxious. Up at 04:45hrs, stocked up with
a good breakfast. Nearly cried at the thought of having to say goodbye again,
feels like leaving family. After a little confusion and a less traumatic
farewell than I imagined, the coach was away.

Travelled the early part of the morning through Northam to
Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. The small settlements seem like ghost towns, but
always with a hotel to rest the weary traveller before Nullabor. We put down
ourselves to water, much of the journey takes us through scrub land until we
reach Kalgoorlie, for miles it seems. A film kills a couple of hours. My
companion on this journey is a pleasant lady from Holland. She decided in her
retirement to make the most of her time left, and travel. She always travels
alone. I guess her husband has passed on or something. She has children back
home. It seems that her travels have taken her far – Thailand, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Venezuela, Australia, (her brother lives here), and Europe. Two or
so months at a time. It goes to show that you are never too young to travel.
Many friends can be met on the way and it would appear that the female will no
longer be trodden on. However, one can still never be too careful. I notice
that the youth hostels check to see if you are travelling alone and at what
time you intend to reach the hostel. With so many on the same journey it makes
you feel reassured. Kalgoorlie, a much larger town….(stop press – I have just
seen my first live kangaroo hopping over the road)…..than I imagined. Twinned
with a once fending town, it is now called Kalgoorlie Boulder. Together with
Coolgardie, the region is known as the Eastern Goldfields of W.A. There is
still a lot of gold lost in them thar hills (or flats) of Australia. Mining is
still the employer of this town. Many fabulous buildings built around the turn
of the century. First pioneered in the 1890’s, the town thrives and many mining
attractions would make this a worthwhile stopover. Alas, we only dropped a few
off and we were on our way.

I almost forgot to mention just out of Perth we made an
unscheduled stop, at the police’ request. An undesirable character was
frog-marched off the bus, donned in his disguise and whisked away. Seems he
decided to take a break instead of attending his own court appearance.

If this is the start of the Nullabor, then I can’t
understand why people say that there is nothing to see. The erratic wooded area
is one of the most beautiful I have seen. Small Red Gums with floret tops and
shrubs and bushes of all proportions mingle together in a festival of greens.
The slightest of blue grey hints every so often. This long and winding road is
the only vulgar thing passing through. Aside from the Aboriginals this is one
of the only natural things left in Oz. A film is put on to distract. Next is
Norseman, at 16:30hrs, had a most disgusting meal that I am sure I shall
regret. Also on our coach are a few would be hippies who literally love to feel
the earth beneath their feet. Judging from their attire I guess they are the
sort who are out to experience a non-claustrophobic environment, one where
freedom can conquer the system for just a little while. I may have a back pack
but I realise that I am not a true backpacker of today’s standards. Maybe it is
my age catching me out, I like comfort, not slumming and sitting on the ground.
Nightfall came quickly, it is only 20:20hrs now and seems like midnight. We are
embarking on the longest stretch of road in Australia, 90 miles of Nullabor. I
can barely see the surrounding area but make out that it is roughly still the
same. Next stop is probably breakfast at Ceduna.

16 February – I lied, we did stop briefly for drinks before
bed. Not sure if I slept last night or not, couldn’t get comfy and there was
hardly any room. I think we must have travelled across the barren areas during
the night although not as sparse as I thought it would be. Breakfast in Ceduna.
Had some foul muesli. There are hardly any residents in these villages or
whatever they are called. Sat with a couple of girls at brekkie, one an Oz and
the other English. The Oz was working in Perth but got homesick and is going
home to Melbourne. She is known as the ‘Bad Bird’, she complains about
everything. Hates people who spend their lives whinging, she could probably
look after herself though. The girl from England lives in Sussex (west) and has
been travelling around Oz on her own. She has to go back home for a wedding,
otherwise she was going on to New Zealand. She sussed me out because of my
espadrilles, which are very scarce over here and expensive. I think the older
people are much more interesting to talk to, they have a lot to contribute. The
younger travellers, who are nice to meet, seem to walk around with heads down,
there is little eye contact and conversations are a bit samey. Where you from?
Where you been/going to? What do you think of? There are a lot of lonely people
wandering around the place with a purpose of their own. I am glad I stayed in
someone’s home, I got more of political incite of how Australia is becoming. If
I stayed on my own I would have looked at the sights, and be none the wiser,
just awe struck. 10 hours to Adelaide. I haven’t used the coach loo today, it
is dangerous place. You need strapping down for safety. If I were to do this
journey again I would stop off overnight, despite the cost, I hate not sleeping
at night. The public loos along the way provide good facilities to freshen up
after a long stretch, makes you feel better and ready to face another long
drive. Still scrub land, not so much now, a little more sparse but not how it
was described to me. I see the odd farmstead here and there, the land must be
useable, but so isolated. I am still very tired so not taking much in. Following
the long, long road to Port Augusta for a 20 min break, had lunch 2 hrs before
at Southern Cross. Areas of mining at various points. Thought we might stay a
while at Port Augusta, quite disappointed. And so the final leg to Adelaide, we
are all feeling a little irritable and some have to travel further. Braved the
loo, even worse today, splash city. Got to Adelaide 8pm, a little early, it
seems older in character than Perth and
bigger. The City of Churches.

I put my sweatshirt on, but it was warmer than I thought. A
guy pointed me in the right direction to the hostel and I started the 1/2 mile
trudge. Checked in ok although did not take much in. The room was full. One
quite sweet Japanese student who has been studying English in Brisbane for 15
weeks, she checks out tomorrow. An English lady below me who I do not know much
about, 2 Germans I think, they check out tomorrow, and 3 others who I know
nothing about. Feeling a bit disorientated so maybe sort myself out tomorrow
and get some kip.

17 February – Bed was amazingly comfortable, well anything
would be compared to the coach. The showers etc are quite clean, not bad for a
2 star hostel. A new recruit has just walked in, she sounds a bit butch. The
sleeping sheets they give are a bit hit and miss, like mummified shrouds.

Got myself together by 09:30 hrs (ish) and decided to get
breakfast on the way in to town. Had toast and a banana for only 70/80p, not
bad. Why do they always put hostels so far out of town. Eventually found my way
to the tourist bureau after stopping off at the post office and post card shop.
Glad all of these things run down the central street. Spent a while sifting
through the various tours on offer and whittled it down to a few possibles, so
came away with a fistful of leaflets and unfortunately had to come back to the
hostel. Must remember to take everything I need out with me during the day. It
does take it out of you having to walk so far, it wastes time too. I did notice
today how much my left hip hurts when I walk. In fact I ache all over
tonight. Was tempted to look around the
shops, but determined to get my bearings and my itinerary sorted first. Once I
have done that I can see about enjoying myself. I have been to so many places
and wasted time looking around shops I am determined to devote a short time to
look. Having said that the shopping malls are quite something here, you need at
least a day to get around them.

Decided on the excursion I want to go on after a lot of
humming and haaing. I know I am on budget but feel that I can treat myself. It
is never a good idea to continually keep a tally of all that you spend. A
mental note each day will suffice. You end up saving here and there anyway so
there is always a little left over.

Off to find lunch. Wanted something substantial as I do not
intend eating again today. There are a lot of reasonable places to eat if you
look, most can be found just off of the city centre. Stopped at Freddie’s Bar
in Pultney Street, they had some Chinese specials for $4.00. Only one choice
left though, Chicken Curry. Oh what the hell, it’s cheap and you always get
plenty with Chinese.

Donned some leggings for the rest of the day, so it turned
warm again. Have to find the bus station to book my trip, the day is going by
so quick. Because I have my bus pass I got the trip at a discount, not bad eh!
Now do I have time to walk to the Cathedral. I am in no hurry so what the hell.
I could have planned my days so much better. Glad I went, despite my lack of
religion, it was worth it just for the statue of Mary in the Lady Chapel. Wandered
back through Elder Park via the Adelaide Oval. Never seen an international
cricket ground before, an all-seater stadium . The outfield looks small. Think
the tennis courts are along the top of the park, this must be the sporting
area, lots of activity on the water. Walked through the festival building
grounds, a very modern style building, with colourful sculptures surrounding
it. This looks like the business area of town. Came back to the hostel via the
Rundle Mall, this is a pedestrian shopping area, sorry had to have a peek. I
will tackle the shops tomorrow. Carried on past the mall down the rest of
Rundle Street, lots more shops and eating places. Quite a buzz going on in this part of town, a lot of young
people staying here. Nearly walked off the map in my excitement, lucky the
streets are on a grid pattern, soon found myself back on track.

Spent part of the evening writing cards and letters, got
tired early so went to bed 21:15hrs.

18 February – Slept really
well again. Still tired this morning, planning on a more easy going day.

Got the mail off. Hit the shopping centre to get it over
with, the Myer Centre was by far the best.
Seven levels in all. Because of the festival starting soon, there are a
lot of street performers and a show was put on in the Myer Centre, not for long
though. All of the security, you’d have thought someone special was
coming. Made my way to the top level and glad I did, this was the fun level.
Watched as a train rode the roller coaster and before you knew it I was on the
thing. You could see everyone shopping in the mall, this was my excitement for
the day. The food level was amazing as they always are. There is no going
hungry, whatever your nationality.
Promised myself I would be done looking by 14:00hrs, so found lunch. I
always look to see what servings are dished up before buying, I know when I am
getting a bargain. Made the mistake of
doing some grocery shopping, have to carry it for rest of day.

Found the Botanical Gardens, they would not look after my
bags whilst I wandered. It was hot today. I am not one for noting what plants
are, but the pleasure of just seeing them will do me. Palms, giant water
lilies, orchids, rare exotics, you name it, it was there. My leg was playing up
a bit today but I had a most pleasurable afternoon. Could have rested a bit more, but just kept
going, I don’t know why. Missed out on
the Bicentennial Conservatory , I think I may be being a bit tight with my
money. I might treat myself again with an excursion, perhaps the beach.

One of the women is here for the festival. She said a lot of
people were going to see the parade of arty farty’s tonight, but think I will
give it a miss. Some of the girls looked
really tarted up, I don’t know what they are here for, but could do with some
packing advice. Just about to get started on this and this guy sat down with
his tea. He was interesting, likes to travel and often cycles around places.
Comes from London and is away for a few months like me, covering Oz, New
Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, and has already done Thailand and Hong Kong, but not
for any great length of time. He shares a lot of my views of Australia. We
talked for ages about all sorts of things, he liked my poetry very much. Got
out whilst the going was good so I could write my diary. A few chores to do
tomorrow before going out, I am looking forward to it. Almost forgot, I did my
good deed for the day, gave the sweatshirt to charity.

19 February – Started the day off well, did a
couple of chores after breakfast. My duty to hoover the stairs, quite an easy
one. Got the washing in. Will book for Alice today. Mooched around most of the morning forward
planning and checking time tables out. Thought I had better eat a snack before
going out.

Took my picnic to the south parklands, this is more of a
local sports area, quite pleasant though. Saw movement in the bushes so walked
back. I hate waiting around for things. I notice that the Melbourne hostel offers
a courtesy bus to pick you up. Backpacking doesn’t have to be so bad, the
hostels do like to take care of you. I would recommend anyone to join, you are
assured that it is a legit organisation. The bus was late, plenty of space,
only a 20 seater. I was the first on and hoped I would not be the only one.
Eight more got on at various points, a
mixed bunch to say the least, Barbara Cartland down to muck and brass. Got an
informative tour through town, so many areas I shall miss. Drove along part of
the Grand Prix circuit, passed the race course. Takes 3 months to set the G.
Prix up, one month to dismantle. The Adelaide Hills provide a most scenic
route. First stop, Mount Lofty, the highest point. Spectacular views across
Adelaide city. The whole city is massive, with suburbs sprawling each way as
far as the eye can see. There are walks to take through the hills at this point
if you have the time, sadly ours was a short stop. Next to Cleland Wildlife
Park in the conservation area. The guide lied, it said 2 1/2 hrs but we only
had 2 hrs. Saw my first Tasmanian Devil, cute little thing would not keep still
for a photo. Wasted time at the Dingo’s. Now for my treat, the Koalas, they have
a lot here to share around, just had to have my photo taken with one. As one
gets tired of the camera another replaces it. My pleasure was Keegan, a 3 year
old girl koala, I could cuddle her forever, such soft contented animals. Could
be something to do with the eucalyptus leaves being fed. It is a shame that the
camera lights left a shadow, would have been nicer to have some scenery behind
us. This photo is definitely a good
memory. Would really like to see some in the real wild. The animals are fenced
in here but have acres of natural ground to live in. It was wonderful to be able
to walk amongst the geese and other wild fowl, kangaroos, wallabies, emus etc
and feed them from the hand. Rod Hull does justice to his emu, a lovely bird,
but a greedy one, glad to still have a hand. Dear kangaroos, you need glasses,
they cannot focus that well, so the food you feed them has to be right under
their noses. How gently the animals and birds (except emus), eat from your
hand. One kangaroo did not like the choice in my hand, so decided to take a
look in the bag, sorry mate it’s all the same. He turned his nose up a hopped
away. Sadly ran out of time and made it back to the coach with seconds to
spare. Came back through more scenic routes, via Piccadilly Valley and the
orchard areas, some breath-taking views.
Got dropped off outside my hostel, nice man.

Ate out tonight, a rare treat, again Pultney Street, Italian
Linguine Marinara, not bad, very filling with complementary bread – only $3.00.
Would like to walk along the coast tomorrow, I will see how it goes.

Quite boring tonight, no one to talk to, put my contribution
in the visitors’ book, wish I could read Japanese. Some people never look
further than the city centre and night life, they never see any simplistic
beauty in anything. Settled down to
crosswords and Daniel came along, so didn’t get to bed until after 23:00hrs.

Current day thoughts

I now understand the self-centred, self-sufficient nature of
Australia. Apart from Australia growing
as a country and the fact they have the climate and space to produce so much
more for themselves than smaller countries such as the UK, if you rely less on
other countries you prosper and sustain a standard of living.

It may have seemed a crazy idea to travel across Australia
via coach, and it truly was a bean can of a coach, but I feel I saw so much
more than if I had whizzed across on a train and would certainly have missed it
all on a plane. I would still recommend
travelling alone as it encourages you to talk to other people, and you get to
make your own decisions about things. True
freedom. I inspired at least one person to travel alone
to Australia, a colleague who I worked with in a GP surgery in Cornwall, she
said she would never have done anything like that, but hearing my tales gave
her the courage to go. She visited the
Gloucester Tree in Pemberton that I talked about previously,
and she climbed to the top too. If you
can make a positive change to at least one person’s life then it makes life
worthwhile.

****************************************************************

Week 5

20 February – A still, warm day, the city seems quiet.
Decided to go to the beach, have no idea what sort of place I am going to, pot
luck I guess. Adelaide has a slightly different ticket system to Perth.
Getting the ticket from the machine is
the same, but as you get on the train the ticket has to go through a machine to
validate it. Didn’t realise it until half way through the journey, luckily the
inspector didn’t get on. Ended up at the end of the line in a place called
Grange, a quiet seaside town, very select in parts. Found the beach and walked
for a while hoping for the loos, there never are any loos by the beaches, so
downed tools put the cossie on and had a swim in the sea, so clear and calm.
Lots more people on the beaches in this part of Oz, but the beach goes on for
miles so all quite spread out. Laid in
the sun for half an hour, put the lotion on a best as I could. Set off for
another walk along the beach to see if I could reach the harbour. After an hour
I got a bit hot and bothered and it was still nowhere in sight. Had to pop back
in water during that hour for another pee, still no loos. Found some when it was too late. Sat for a
while to take in the view, lots of boats out today, not a cloud in the sky.
Went back to the loos to change, I was almost dry, no doors on the loos or
paper. Took a chance, good job too, I am getting worried about my urination
habits. Must have walked miles, took ages to get back to the train stop. Had no
idea what time it would come along, luckily only 10 minutes to wait. Back in
the city, seems it doesn’t sleep on Sundays, shops open all day, maybe because
of the festival, lots of street shows on. Had the chefs special for lunch,
followed by a hot fudge sundae, Mmmmmmmm!
Found out back at the hostel that I burned in places on my back, will
hold back on the sunning for a while. Quiet evening writing and listening to
music. The regular gang have gone. Got myself ready for tomorrow.

21 February – This has been a long day, had to
give my bed up first thing, so have just been playing for time. Managed to do
all of the important bits in good time, the exchange rate is up slightly, but
still poor. Got the souvenirs thank god. There are a lack of good souvenir
shops in Adelaide.

Walked around the S.A. Museum this afternoon and also the
Art Gallery. The good thing about Australia is the fact that most things are
free, and I could drop my bags at the reception to save lugging them around.
One or two good modern paintings in the gallery, rest were quite boring,
although some very well done. A lot of British/Ozzie artists around. The museum
was not what I expected, more worldwide things, animals, culture and stuff. One
of the better parts was a working bee hive they have set up inside. The bees
have an exit to outside, they looked very busy today, my sun burn is playing
up.

Spent the last part of the afternoon in the Youth Hostel, my
things are safe in storage. Chatted with a couple of women, seems the Grimsby
lass is concerned about going home to no job. She was made redundant a while
ago. I think like me she has come away to muse over her future, as well as
having a good time. The last thing on my mind is what will happen when I get
home. I feel free and more confident about life now. Turns out that she leaves
today, may be on the same coach, one of the guys to. Can’t even imagine how hot
it will be at Alice.

The coach is late leaving. More comfy than the last one,
just. Tried to sleep to Port Augusta as had done the journey before.

22 February – It was a beautiful star lit night, makes me
think of the Aboriginals ‘Dream Time’. I learned a bit more yesterday, how
rocks and river and stars etc became their myths and legends. It is 06:00hrs
now and we are dropping people off at Coober Peedy, looks like I have a seat to
myself now. Glad for the seat to myself now.

Didn’t plan my trip stay in Alice Springs that well, because
it was an overnight trip (17 hours), I would get there on the Tuesday and leave
on the Wednesday, so arranged an extra night in Alice Springs, thus leaving on
the Thursday. However, I decided on the
way up that I just had to go and see Ayres Rock as I was so close (just 6 hours
from Alice). I could not find a tour
that would fit in with my times up there, so left it in the hands of my bus
operators. I had one day left to use on
my Aussie Pass, so after one afternoon/evening in Alice (not that good a
place), I left Alice the following morning for Ayres Rock.

23 February – The afternoon we went to see the Olgas, a
mountain range nearby and in the evening stood and watched the sun go down on
Ayres Rock, however a cloud got in the way so it was not very good. I was just amazed that I was standing there looking
at the rock, it is quite spectacular, more impressive from a distance.

24 February – Spent the night at the Ayres Rock resort and
got up for 7am the next day to climb the rock.
I got so far and lost my bottle, my shoes did not have enough grip and
the surface is quite smooth, so sat with many others to wait for those heroes
to come back down. Takes approximately 1
hour up, 1 hour down. So many have died
from accidents. The climb was followed
by a tour around the base of the rock.
At 2pm the same day I caught my bus back to Adelaide. I am so glad that I saw Ayres Rock, never
forget it as long as I live.

25 February – Did some washing today, so hope it dries in
time for my trip to Melbourne tomorrow (7.30am). Quite enjoying travelling around, you meet
people in one place and catch them up again in another. By the way, I did not have to pay any extra
for the Ayres Rock tour, only overnight accommodation. I have some leaflets and things that I may
send home to save space. The weather up
north was unbearable, it was pointless showering because the sweat would not go
away. Much cooler here today, only 24
centigrade, bliss. Will not bother going
anywhere, I will stay at the hostel and rearrange my rucksack for
tomorrow. Australia is not a bad place,
feel quite at ease here and everyone is very protective of tourists. Am looking forward to Canada more I think. I do not get much time to really relax from
dashing around seeing it all. By the
time I have written up my diary it is bedtime.
Having a good time but do get lonely sometimes and doing a lot of
thinking. Feels like time is flying by
but it is only five weeks.

26
February – Trip to Melbourne approximately 12 hours, so would have arrived in
Melbourne around 7.00pm. Because of time
difference, Melbourne is 30 minutes ahead of Adelaide. Don’t remember a lot about the journey but
was much hillier than other journeys.

Guess
I reached the YHA on Finders Street ok and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Current
day thoughts

The
same ticket system on public transport is adopted worldwide now. Coming from the wilds of Wiltshire I can’t
say we were that advanced, but who knows what went on then in the big cities of
the UK. Was Australia ahead ahead of
time. I used the phrase Oz or Ozzie a
lot, suppose it should be Aussie, either way, I don’t really like the term any
more. I think my bladder habits have
improved quite a lot, although the menopausal years have been a challenge. I remember developing a system on the beaches
for when toilets were not available. I
would don a large t-shirt, did a hole in the sand, kneel over it with my
t-shirt covering everything, go and then fill the hole in. Will never learn when it comes to the sun,
but have learnt that a tan is not an essential part of life. I was blown away by the art that I found in
Australia. My trip cured me of buying
souvenirs for other people forever more.
Back then the hostels were really good for storing luggage if you were
going on a trip for a couple of nights.
I’m not sure of the facilities now especially when it comes to security.

Sadly
I lost some of my diaries, covering the period from 22 February to 4 June. I posted a lot of leaflets with the diaries
back to the UK when I was in USA, just to save carrying them around. The envelope I posted them in made it back to
the UK minus the information I had put inside, replaced by some correspondence
addressed to a person in Wales, which I assume the arsehole who destroyed my
material wanted me to pass on. I won’t
go into the details of what the letter contained but it was not nice and I
destroyed it. So, the above entry, from 22 February to 25, as
will be the next few entries, is taken from letters/postcards that I wrote to people whilst I was away.

The
main attraction for Alice Springs is the springs themselves. I walked out to the site around 5pm, as it is
less hot then, by myself, which in hindsight was a really stupid thing to do as
unfortunately a lot of the Aborigines there get very drunk and who knows who is
watching you. I took an off-beat track
out in the wilds. Thankfully I arrived
safely but there was nobody else around.
The springs were very tranquil and beautiful and I was glad to have
gone. I read all the information
available and made my way back before dark.
I signed the book to say I was going, so someone would have known if I
hadn’t come back as you have to sign back in on return.

Backpacking
is fun but you still have chores to do – washing, grocery shopping – it’s not
all play. I still remember washing some
clothes out at Ayres Rock. The soil at
Ayres Rock is red, all red, and the clothes I washed were full of red
dust. They didn’t take long to dry but
as soon as you put them on again the red dust returned – a losing battle. It was very cold at night though. As I
mentioned I didn’t go well prepared, mainly because I didn’t know what to
expect or that I would be going to Ayres Rock.
I didn’t have a sleeping bag and managed to not end up with a sleeping
sack like everyone else, so covered myself with whatever clothing, towels I had
with me whilst in my bunk. It may have
been a massive temperature drop or the air-conditioning that was on but either
way I was freezing all night. I still
loved the experience.

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Week 6

27
February – 5 March

Was getting fed up with cities by the time I
got to Melbourne.

Did not like Melbourne much – too crowded and
I had to scrape the smog from my face at the end of each day.

I went to Philip Island on one of the days to
see the Fairy Penguins parade in the evening.
The penguins are only a foot tall and hundreds of them come out of the
sea at night and waddle up across the beach to their burrows.

4 March – Left Melbourne – 12 hours overnight trip.

5 March – Arrived in Sydney. Unfortunately due to a little confusion David
and I missed each other at the coach station, but we eventually met up at the
house. Crows Nest is a nice area to live
and their house is very nice too. They
are renovating right through and hope to finish next year.

Current
day thoughts

I don’t remember disliking Melbourne that
much, I did quite a lot whilst there and had a good time. The city has a tram system which I used on
occasion to get to places. I visited
Philip Island as I mentioned in a letter home above. As well as seeing the penguins, which we had
to wait until dark to see, I saw koalas in the wild just chilling in the trees,
zonked out from all the eucalyptus leaves.
Back on mainland I took a boat along the Yarra River in Melbourne to get
a different perspective of the city and to learn a bit more about it. I always find it peaceful out on the
water. I went on a trip out to the
suburbs to the Dandenong Ranges, driving past the street where Neighbours is
filmed and stopping for a spot of afternoon tea with eucalyptus tea, which the
guide brewed himself, and vegemite on crackers.
I visited the botanical gardens to immerse myself amongst more
nature. Melbourne really wasn’t that
bad. I remember it did rain very hard on
one day, which gave me an excuse to try out my wet weather gear. Think I may have been the only person outside
but my cagoule and waterproof trousers, together with my hiking boots, kept me
dry.

David is married to Bridget, who is Celia and
Ron’s daughter. They moved to Sydney
from Western Australia to pursue their careers.
I don’t remember specifically asking to be picked up from the coach
station, just casually mentioned the time I would arrive, so didn’t expect
there to be someone to be waiting. I
waited for a while and then decided to get a taxi out to their house and then
had to wait on the doorstep until David returned. He did go out the coach station but arrived
too late to see me. Of course we had no
mobile phones then to keep in contact. I
feel a bit bad that he made a wasted journey but he’s a laid back guy and was ok about it.

*****************************************************************************

Week 7

6 to 12 March

7 March – Had a tour of the opera house.

10 March – Went to see an opera, ‘The Pearl Fishers’, was
brilliant so will be making more of an effort to go from now on, it is more
accessible to the common man nowadays.

11 March – Got in contact with a friend I used to work with
as Friends Provident, he works for the same company here and has lived in
Australia for about four years now. We
had lunch to catch up on the gossip.

12 March – Sydney does not seem so crowded, may be because
it is so big. The harbour areas are
really beautiful, especially on a sunny day, I could spend all day just sitting
and watching the boats to by. Weather is
mixed but not stopping me from going anywhere.

Off to the Blue Mountains today, really nice, lots of
waterfalls and stuff. Stopped off at
Wentworth Falls for lunch, travelled onto Katoomba shortly after.

Will hopefully get to Bondi Beach and Botany Bay later in
the week, the weather is supposed to pick up by Tuesday. The clocks went back last Saturday so winter
is now on its way.

It is a shame Bridget and David are working all of the time,
it would be nice to spend more time with them.
They get home late in the evening so we don’t eat until 8.30 most nights,
the day is gone by then. I’m not missing
home too much, I am so busy rushing around everywhere. I do not get to hear much news of what is
happening in the UK. I am meeting all
sorts of people as I go about, very difficult to actually find an Australian
though. Sometimes you can meet up with
people at hostels that you met somewhere else, everyone has their own routes
worked out.

Current day
thoughts

So not much to go on for this week, but I can remember more
and more as I read back on the letters I sent home. The internet is a brilliant tool for jogging
my memory too, so many things I had forgotten I had done and seen.

I loved the first time I travelled across Sydney Harbour
Bridge and I never stopped enjoying trip back and forth each day, it was just
so stunningly beautiful. I would pick an
area to visit each day and endeavour to spend the whole day in that area, getting
as much as I could out of the visit.

Darling Harbour as a hive of activity, so much going on. I walked around the Chinese Garden of
Friendship, a beautiful, peaceful garden which shuts out so much of the
city. I feel sure I took a cruise of the harbour
and would have taken it from Darling Harbour, though may be not on the same day
that I first visited the area.

The Opera House was quite a source of entertainment
throughout my stay in Sydney. I booked
onto a tour of the Opera House, which was very interesting, it is quite a
building. Often there were free
lunchtime concerts by musicians, outside of the building, which I took
advantage of. A nice way to fill an hour
or two. On one evening I booked to see
an opera. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but back then on the final
night of an opera you can queue up early on the morning of the final night and
get ‘standing tickets’ at a knockdown price.
I got mine for $20, which I thought was pretty good. You have to wait until everyone is seated for
the performance and then once the doors are closed you can either stay standing
at the back or sit yourself in any vacant seats you see. I chose a seat, which was a couple of rows
back from where Michael Parkinson and his wife were sitting. He didn’t recognise me though.

The Blue
Mountains provided an opportunity to get out into the wilds for a day. I took the train out. I
don’t remember Wentworth Falls or Katoomba but I do remember going out to Echo Point where we could see the Three Sisters rock
formation.
It was around this are that walked down to the base of the rain forest,
so not for the faint hearted, of course it meant we had to walk back out again,
but I remember how much darker it was in the rain forest with all of the
vegetation blocking out the light. I
didn’t think about any poisonous creatures that I may come across down there but
I guess they must have been around.

An
exciting week really.

*******************************************************************************

Week 8

13 to 19 March

14 March – Lunched with my friend again

15 March – Went to Bondi Beach today and yes my nose did go red, but it has calmed down now.

17 March – I had a walk around the famous King’s Cross area today being informed that it is an ok place to go during the day, (it is the red light district). Don’t you believe I a word of it, I was propositioned from a doorway of a naughty establishment, must have been the stilettos that did it.

Can’t believe I am nearly leaving Australia. One minute I couldn’t wait and now I think I shall miss it a bit. Sydney is a very lively place.

Money is going pretty well, although I have just been very extravagant. I am treating Bridget and David to a meal tomorrow night. They have expensive tastes so shall probably spend a fortune. Will work out how well I have done tonight.

Weather is mixed here, not so warm now as winter has set in. You can’t compare the weather this side to Western Australia, this is an entire continent so regions do vary a lot.

Current day thoughts

Bondi Beach, the only beach in Australia I had ever heard of, so had to go there. It wasn’t as big as I imagined but the sand was very deep, almost as if some had been shipped in to build it up a bit. There were few people on the beach and not much activity around. Was nice to just sit for a while to say I had been there.

Botany Bay was a very peaceful place, with a simple memorial marking the spot where James Cook first landed, surrounded by parkland away from built up areas. A visitor centre provided historical information.

One thing I can say about Australia, back then at least, is that the historical sites away from the hub of town and city are not dressed up. The landmarks speak for themselves, set in beautiful natural surroundings.

There is something quite pacifying in listening to the lap of water against the shore and looking out to sea.

As I only had two days left in Australia and Bridget and David had been brilliant in putting up with me, a relative stranger, for two weeks I wanted to treat them to a meal out. We went to a Thai restaurant and then to a different place for pudding. I got to see the Sydney skyline at night which was beautiful.

Other places I visited in Sydney included The Rocks area near to the harbour bridge, which was a mix of markets and street entertainment. I think it may have been here that I visited The Museum of Contemporary Art, which featured lots of artwork from students in Sydney, a magnificent array of colour and talent, art that I have never seen before, the botanical gardens, as I love to escape to a garden when I get the opportunity and I also caught a ferry across from Sydney Harbour to Manly, which I don’t remember being too interesting. I had lunch and came back quite quickly.

************************************************************************************

Weeks 9 and 10

20 March to 2 April

20 March – Flew to Canada

Vancouver – 20 to 26 March

Had some lovely weather in Vancouver, the cherry blossoms and daffodils were all out and it was very spring like.

26 March – Went up a mountain, ticket was good value, it included a film show and a horse drawn sleigh ride. It was really pretty amongst the snow, plenty of skiing going on too.

27 – 28 March – I came to Vancouver Island, which is as big as England. I will never think twice about travel in Britain again. I would do Scotland in a day and back again no sweat. Stayed in Nanaimo for a couple of nights, small hostel and a s**!t place. One of the guys there, a South African, took me out to a coffee bar one evening, which was fun and made a nice change from staying in. A lot of people I meet think I am Australian. I didn’t think that much of the country rubbed off on me.

29 March – After Nanaimo I went down to Victoria and stayed one night. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia. I dived into a library and read up on how the Indians accepted the Europeans into the country. It is very interesting finding out how different people look towards the natives nowadays, not a lot different to the Aborigines.

30 March – I got a lift up from Victoria to a place called Chemainus from a guy at the hostel. He does relief work at the hostel. He was taking two other girls to a ferry as well. We had a good tour around with him. Chemainus is a beautiful town. Had a chocolate bunnie bought for me for Easter, but had to eat it cause it was melting. Travelling to Banff on Sunday so will buy a huge egg for myself to pig on. From there I caught a bus to Duncan. I phoned my friend Anne from Victoria and stayed at her home in Duncan. I wish I had stayed there the whole time, the area is really nice. They are having a new house built a few miles away, so we went to clamber over the timbers.

31 March – Today I went with Anne to an Indian heritage centre and had a private guided tour, it was very interesting. Unfortunately had to leave for my ferry and she had to go for a hair appointment, but it was nice to see her and to get a good night’s sleep. The ferry is running late due to the Easter weekend, but moving off now, a 1½ hour trip to the mainland. From the ferry we are passing close to islands that are in the States. Saw an orca swimming in the sea. A lot of Canadians travel to Seattle for a holiday.

I think this time travel is starting to catch up with me. I have been so tired this week, rushing to here and there, going to bed later than normal and getting up early. I have been to a lot of places but have done little in the way of touristy things. The weather has also been hot but I am told the further inland I go it will get colder. Have talked to a lot of actual Canadians lately, even been offered a job later in the year. I think Canada will provide a lot of places to simply rest and refuel myself and just look at the scenery. I am told the hostel in Edmonton is not so nice, full of wino’s or something, so may check in for a night to see if I like it and move to a hotel if not. Some of the hostels on route will be closed or have shut down so alternate means will have to be found. Would have loved to have gone whale watching but it is mainly a seasonal thing and you have to travel along way to get to the main areas.

I lost my combination lock somewhere between Sydney and Vancouver, thought I had just not put it on properly but if you look at the zipper bits on the end it looks like somebody has cut them to remove the padlock. There was nothing in there to take but that is not the point. Failing that all I can think is that the rucksack got handled roughly at the airport – (I did have three planes to board).

Being tired like I am now doesn’t make me wish I was home, but I wish I had someone to cuddle for a while. When you have loads of things see you don’t have time to think about things like that.

It is already 1st April in England, few more hours to go for us. I wonder how may jokes will be played at the hostel. I will occupy my time with hot cross buns, had some at Anne’s last night, really yummy.

May be go to Stanley Park tomorrow. Sunday my bus leaves at 6pm so I will leave the rucksack at the hostel and go to a museum close by. It is cheaper to travel by night, you save a night’s accommodation, but you miss all of the scenery. I will get to Banff at 7.30am on Monday, may have to buy some gloves and a scarf there. Hope there is snow.

1 April – Managed to buy some hot cross buns and get an Easter egg.

2 April – Stanley Park

Current day thoughts

Bridget and David took me to the airport on the 20 March to wave me off to Canada. It saddened me that Bridget really didn’t remember me or her time in the UK. She was only 5 when she left I suppose, whereas I remember her and I distinctly remember the day she left for Australia, 24 December 1969 and exchanging Christmas presents and the kiss goodbye. My best friend gone. Somebody did say to me that whilst my life carried on the same, Bridget’s changed significantly, so many new things for her to explore, so perhaps she wouldn’t remember things in the UK so much. A bit like my travelling in a way, so I understand now.

It was a bit odd going from autumn in Australia (still warm) to the spring in Canada. I crossed the International Date Line, leaving Australia at sometime late afternoon on the 20th and arriving in Canada early in the morning on the same day, so effectively I got to do real time travel and live the same day twice.

I got a taxi to my hostel, which was at Jericho Beach. It was a little ways out of town, the air just felt fresh and mountains provide the backdrop. The hostel was a little older than ones I had been used to in Australia but it was comfortable with all the facilities required.

I covered two weeks this time as I was a little short on information for week 9. Thank goodness we have the internet now to remind me of some of the things I got up to, which included:

Gastown, one of the oldest parts of Vancouver and has a steam clock, which I don’t remember steaming at the time.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, out in the beautiful wilds, which can only be crossed by people and really only safely with one person at a time as it is narrow and wobbles all over the place if too many people at one time.

There were some native Indian totem poles and other exhibits and trails.

Horseshoe Bay is where I caught the ferry to Vancouver Island, but I did spend a bit of time looking around. It really is a beautiful little town in an amazing setting.

Seeing the orca in the wild was truly a sight to see. I know there is wildlife in the UK but it really isn’t as spectacular as Canadian wildlife. Perhaps we just don’t see enough of it or appreciate it. Grouse Mountain is where I had my sleigh ride, the closest I have gotten to Santa so far, and apart from checking downtown Vancouver out for shopping etc I escaped to Stanley Park with its beautiful gardens and nature trails. Whilst on one of my treks downtown I happened upon Leslie Neilsen doing a photo shoot in a shiny red sports car

******************************************************

Week 11

3 April to 9 April

3 April to 8 April – I moved on to Lake Louise in the Rockies and was up to my neck in snow, which was great fun.

Stayed there for five days and had a nice rest. I do not ski so apart from gong on walks there was little else to do.

Lake Louise village is very small. The lake itself was covered in ice and snow, so I walked part of the way across, some were cross country skiing.

9 April – Went to Banff for three days after Lake Louise,
the scenery in this part of Canada is so beautiful, nice to have some fresh
mountain air in my lungs. The hostel in Banff if about a mile or so out of town so had to lug my backpack up the steep mountain road. Stopped halfway to catch my breath. The accommodation in this area is really
quite luxurious, even the hostels.

Current day thoughts

Don’t know why I put in a letter home that I would be going to Banff after Vancouver. Maybe I changed my mind or something, but I definitely stopped off a Lake Louise before Banff as it followed the more logical route.

On Easter Sunday a kind person went around all of the beds in our hostel room and placed a small chocolate egg on each pillow. A lovely gesture I thought, but nobody was going to get their hands on my big egg, which I reserved for my onward journey.

What a difference travelling from Vancouver to Lake Louise, I went from beautiful spring back to winter in one day. There was thick snow on the ground. It was still ski season in these parts and most of the people staying in the hostel were there for just that, I was the odd one out. I have never fancied the experience of skiing and still don’t.

My hostel was Swiss chalet style with a warm log fire, quite fancy for a hostel really, set amongst fir trees and the mountains, just like the movies. It was nice every so often just to chill for a while as backpacking involves propelling yourself forwards all the time.

Each evening every guest would congregate in the kitchen to cook and so many people asked me how my day had gone on the slopes. It was a conversation stopper to say I wasn’t skiing and I think some thought it odd for me to be there for anything else. It didn’t stop me talking to
people though. I remember having a conversation with one man who had been to the UK and found it amusing how fast people drive cars in the UK. He said, ‘where have they got to get to in such a hurry’, in reference to there only being very short distances between everywhere when compared to distances in Canada.

I rarely ate out and bought provisions to cook each day, it was cheaper that way. I have a vague recollection of the store in Lake Louise being very small with basic provisions.

The lake is the main attraction but, as I said previously, it was iced over. I was a bit apprehensive to walk on the ice, but did it anyway for the experience. The Chateau Lake Louise was the place to stay if you could afford it, looking very impressive from the outside. I did go and have a nosey inside and used the toilets. I don’t think I looked out of place in my casual clothing as people were wearing all sorts of things; they didn’t kick me out anyway. I became quite good at sneaking into posh hotels to use the toilets.

Five days seems quite a long time to have spent at Lake Louise but I must have filled them, as I did most places I went to.

******************************************************

Week 12

10 – 16 April

Dedicated to the memory of Margaret Spicer

10 – 11 April – Banff

11 April – Had to get to Lethbridge via Calgary, but did not stay long; it just looked like another city to me. Went past the Calgary army base on the coach, so guess that is where Stephen would have stayed. Alberta, (the south anyway) is ranching land, so very flat and full of wheat fields. A
lot of different religious communities in the area, Mormons, Hederites,
Menonites, all kinds.

Most of the things in Margaret’s house are years old, she has some modern equipment but doesn’t bother much about things. If it still works it is good enough. She is retired from work; she was a nursing aide in a psychiatric unit.

Her sister lives nearby and they now have the house in East Knoyle that their brother lived in before he died. The most interesting piece of machinery is the washing machine, which I have to use to do my clothes, must date back to the 1950s.  It is one of those agitator contraptions with the wringing section over the top. I have a photo to prove it. It does the job but I did find it amusing.

We had a women’s luncheon to go to (very religious ladies). I won a prize; the theme of the evening was travel.

12 April – Went golfing with a couple of ladies, I was the caddy. There was a pot luck supper at the club house, every lady bakes a dish and brings it along. We had tons of food.

13 April – Five pin bowling and a tour of the hospital which was interesting.

14 April – Fairly quiet, although we went over to Margaret’s sister’s for supper. Their maiden name was Chubb, the Mayor of Salisbury is related, he is, or was if not mayor now, a Chubb.

15 April – Shopping day. I did manage to get out in the afternoon for a walk to a local lake.

16 April – We went to a flea market and watched some dressage competitions; Margaret used to be a keen horsewoman.

We sat is a shopping mall and sold raffle tickets for the Diabetic Association; Margaret is a diabetic herself.

We watched a local amateur dramatic play, so have not been a tourist yet, more of a community participant.

Current day thoughts

I would have lumped 2x weeks together again as lacking any material for Banff, but I have quite a lot for Lethbridge so decided to just
stick to the week.

Banff was just beautiful in its mountainous setting. Again, they had a luxurious hotel, the Banff Springs Hotel. I just happened to be desperate
for a wee as I was going by so had to pop in to use the facilities. I may have looked a little out of place here but who cares, clearly the desk staff did not.

I remember specifically two places I visited in Banff, one was the library where I went into archive section to read up on the Native American Indian treaties, and the second was a mouth-watering chocolate shop that I visited a few times to stock up on one of their delicious offerings. From my photographs I can see I visited the Banff hot springs themselves and there was a lot of historical information and displays on the Native Canadian Indian tribes of the area.

Another place I visited was the Bow River Falls. Not spectacular in themselves but on showing my photographs to family when I got home, Stephen produced a photograph that he had taken of the Bow Falls a few years before stood in the exact same spot that I had been standing in when I took mine. Must have been a popular tourist spot for photo opportunity.

Who is Margaret I hear you asking. Margaret was a good friend from childhood to the mother of my then boyfriend. She emigrated to Canada; I’m not sure when, and so did her sister, Joan. I had never Margaret before so it was very generous of her to let me stay in her home, and for so long. Sadly Margaret has since passed away. Her ashes were returned to the UK to be scattered at a spot in East Knoyle where she grew up.

Lethbridge was quite a busy town; it has everything as it is so far from the next big city of Calgary, which is about 140 miles away. Not a place a tourist would necessarily visit unless there was something specific to see, so it had a very close community spirit, or it seemed to, may be because Margaret was a part of so much going on, and she immersed me into so much as well.
It made a nice change from my usual routine when visiting a place. Margaret and Joan had put together quite an itinerary for me.

The day of golfing was the windiest day I have experienced, not the best weather for playing golf, but the ladies persevered anyway. I did notice at the pot luck supper that one or two had cheated by buying dishes to bring – KFC being one of them.

The visit to the hospital where Margaret used to work was fascinating. It was a secure psychiatric unit, for people with both physical and mental health disabilities, but Margaret just breezed in with me as easy as anything. I don’t remember being signed in or anything. The patients we stopped off to see were happy to see Margaret. There were quite a mix of disabilities from dementia type illness to those who have suffered brain
trauma and need 24 hour care. I can still see the face of one patient who had tried to take her life but was found before it was too late, however she had been starved of oxygen for too long and now is unable to walk or do anything for herself. She could have limited conversation with people and did recognise Margaret, but I do wonder at what she must have thought of
life then, it certainly wasn’t better for her. I hope she is at peace now.

Escaping from the house to discover more of Lethbridge by myself was a much needed thing to do, I went to places that Margaretwouldn’t have taken me to and was able to gage the town a lot easier. You wouldn’t believe there could be so much to see in this out of the way place and I still had more days to fill.

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Week 13

17 – 23 April

17 April – Been here in Lethbridge for nearly a week now, have one more to go. Will take time this morning to write to Ron and Celia and Bridget and David and anyone else I have stayed with along the way. Only been three months but seems longer.

Have found everything very educational so far, I find all of the cultures interesting. Sometimes I will dive into a library to find out any information I need on a particular subject. I have an address of a magazine, ‘She Travels’, which I shall write to at some stage, they want travellers to contribute to it, however I need a computer as you have to send a disc with everything on.

Being treated to all kinds of different experiences by Margaret. Weather is so mixed here, we have had in the past week, gales, snow and temperatures up in the 20s, so not sure what to put on in the morning. Today and the coming week I have some touristy things to see in the area. Margaret’s sister works in a jail so having a tour of the jail on Tuesday evening, hope they don’t keep me there. Going to a nature reserve this afternoon and to a concert tonight. The group are a young family called, ‘The Rankin Family’, can only imagine they are like Clannad so should be good. Will buy a tape if I like them.

19 April – Local prison in Lethbridge. Had to wander amongst the inmates at some points, it was really quite enlightening. Some of Joan’s co-workers remarked at how calm and collected I was, apparently some people that visit the place are nervous wrecks.

Current day thoughts

With so much to do in and around Lethbridge I am a bit confused as to the chronological order of things in the second week but I have tried to make some order via my photographs, (hopefully soon I can post some of
those for you to see).

There was a nature reserve, which I don’t remember anything about, but it may have contained the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which is an open plain area where the Native Indians used to drive the buffalo over the cliff, which would kill them, and subsequently they could eat the meat and use the hides.

The bridge, which Lethbridge is named after, is a railway bridge which is the longest and tallest railway bridge of its type in the world. It crosses the Oldman River but I don’t recall whether I saw the river or not, just a really long bridge covering lots of plain.

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden provided a peaceful sanctuary to wander around, not that Lethbridge is a noisy place; in fact Canadian towns and cities are all quite laid back. Again I have vague memories of it.

We went to Fort Whoop-Up to take in a bit of culture. A once trading post in both legal and illegal goods, (whisky being one of them, buffalo hides another).

Joan took me to the Waterton Lakes National Park close to the Canada/USA border, which was so beautiful and took in the Rocky Mountains.

We had a lovely day walking amongst the deer and goats and taking in the fresh air and scenery. It was just coming into spring and I always think the air is at its freshest in the spring.  It is my favourite season.

Margaret did get me to do some chores though. Apart from helping her to sell raffle tickets in the shopping mall she got me to use a contraption which held week killer, which I had to administer to all, and there were a lot, of the dandelions on the lawn. I guess I had to earn my keep
somehow.

I never did contact ‘She Travels’, but I still have a burning ambition to be a travel writer. Watch this space as they say.

How technology has progressed. Computers were not as common as they are now and floppy discs were the thing back then.

The Rankin Family were really good, more like The Corrs than Clannad and I did indeed purchase a tape of their music, a cassette tape, not a CD. I remember being disappointed that the music on it was not the same as they did at the concert, but I still enjoyed listening to it.

The prison was a great place to visit. It was an open prison so security a bit more relaxed. At one point a prisoner offered for us to go through a door before him, but Joan made him go first and he respected her authority. I can only imagine the danger you can put yourself into if not careful. I wasn’t too happy with all the male attention I got but I guess not too many young ladies happen their way. We sat in a secure office for a while, where the prison officers could observe the prisoners around them in a communal
area. On an upper level there were cubicles but I can’t remember whether they were toilets or showers, either way a prisoner’s feet would always be showing, so not total privacy. The water fountain had a notice attached to
it asking that nobody should spit into fountain. I don’t know why I remember that, but it has stayed with me and I am a bit wary of water fountains now. A female had been detained for disorderly behaviour;
I think she had been drinking. I was allowed to look through a peep hole in the door to the room she was being held and she was giving the prison officers some lip. I was glad not to have been on the other side of the door. Each prison officer was allocated a pepper spray to use when required but before they were allowed to have one the officer had to experience the pepper spray in his or her eyes, so as they know the kind of reaction to
expect from another person.

I think the prison had quite an impact on me as I can remember so much detail of the visit. Not something you get to do every day is it, and it wouldn’t be the last prison I encountered on my journey.

With Margaret and Joan’s help I pretty much squeezed everything out of Lethbridge. And to think I had never heard of the place, so thank you to my ex for suggesting I stay with Margaret.

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Week 14

24 – 30 April

25 April – I will always be thankful to Margaret for the time I spent in Lethbridge, it is such a friendly town, but glad to be on the road again. The days leading up to my departure were really nice and hot but the day I left it snowed. It is a very confusing country weather wise.

Edmonton was six hours away and it was sunny by the time I got there.

Was not impressed with Edmonton to start with but as the days went on I found some nice spots to visit. Because of the severe weather they get in the prairie regions, everything closes down and does not open up again until May, normally the bank holiday weekend at the end of May, so a lot of things that I wanted to see were not possible.

Current day thoughts

So, I didn’t have that much to say about Edmonton in my letters home, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it in the end.

I think it was in Edmonton that I managed to break one of the window panes at the hostel. They had a system of opening and closing windows that I never quite got used to in Canada, anyway I put too much pressure on the glass and it cracked. No injuries sustained.

I remember one morning stepping out for the day, in my newly washed fleece jacket that I dried in the tumble dryer, and my hair just standing up on end like when you put your hands on one of those plasma balls. It was a combination of the atmosphere with the tumble dried synthetic material of my jacket. I did start to wonder about Edmonton after that.

So what did I get up to in Edmonton. Well, the main attraction was the West
Edmonton Mall, which is one of the largest in the world. It had everything in terms of shopping and entertainment. I guess during the winter months, when you can’t do much outside, it provides activities for everyone. They had a miniature golf course, a waterpark with submarines

and replica of a Galleon ship, dolphins performing tricks,

an ice rink, rollercoaster, which of course I went on,

carousel, and of course some shops and eateries. I believe now there is much more to see and do in the mall.

I hiked around for what seemed like miles to get to things around Edmonton. I decided one day to make my way out to a swimming pool, again I am sure it was Edmonton but can’t be certain, anyway it looked pretty close on the map so I donned my hiking boots and set off. May be I didn’t have much concept with regards to distance, but I decided that a mile in Canada was much longer than in the UK. I walked well off the beaten track to get to the pool and it took forever, I didn’t see one bus go by, so it wasn’t a well serviced area for those without cars. I enjoyed the pool though. On another occasion I was keen to see some bison, that had not been under the hands of a taxidermist, and managed to locate an area just out of town. I took the bus out as close as I could and ended up hiking through a housing estate to see them. They were on enclosed farmland
so not really in the wild but they were still beautiful animals to see. They were at a distance and I felt like I was intruding on people’s private property. If anyone saw me they must have wondered who the waif and stray was, wandering around in the neighbourhood. A man did stop in his car and offered me a lift back, but I wasn’t sure of his intentions so declined. I then had to try to find my way back to a bus route to get back into town. I know I stuck out like a sore thumb because people rarely walk anywhere in North America.

I also went to the Muttart Conservatory, the Peace Dove sculpture, neither of which I have memories of despite the photographic evidence.

There was quite a distance as you can imagine in traveling from one place to another in Canada. I used the Greyhound bus service and often listened to music on my Walkman and also to the local radio stations, which had some very interesting talks going on about the political state of the country.
It was by far the best way to get to know about Canada and what was really going on behind the scenes.

I haven’t given any time really to what I think of Canada so far. It’s not as if I haven’t spent time with any Canadians in their homes. Perhaps because we have always seen so much about North American life on the television or because I had been to the USA before and the lifestyle is similar if a little more laid back. Everything seemed so familiar. It may be because the
‘locals’ were not constantly comparing the lifestyle to mine in England. I do know that I wasn’t compelled to express my views, although I did take a lot in. I was simply mesmerised by the beauty of Canada and its people.

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Week 15

1 May to 7 May

I did an amazing thing in Edmonton. I had a pair of knickers go holey on me so I threw them out and bought a new pair.

3 May – Things are picking up now.

Saskatoon is a nice place, friendly and a much slower pace than the bit cities. The hostel accommodation is in a hotel, it is comfortable but not as good as being in a proper hostel. I have a spring loaded toilet seat in my bathroom, can be interesting at times. Also have a nightclub beneath my room, so no getting to sleep before dawn. They do have a TV in the foyer with some good programmes on.

Am doing a lot more reading, nearly finished my third book in 3½ months.

They have a good restaurant attached to the hotel called Kars Kafe, done out like a garage. The food is served in hub caps. They have the closest to fish and chips shop chips that I have found.

Moving onto Winnipeg on Thursday evening, will get there on Friday morning. May be not able to hostel at Thunder Bay but will check it out in a few days. Luckily I have enough cash-in-hand to pay out on some more expensive accommodation if necessary. Come to think of it I have to do the same for Sudbury.

Am trying to keep up with world news. Ayrton Senna was killed. Haven’t heard any British political scandal lately so guess there is not much going on. I am learning a lot about the native culture, finding it very fascinating visiting heritage centres, diving into libraries. Would be good to get back into some sort of education again.

6 May – Did not get much sleep on the coach journey last night to Winnipeg. I really wish I could hire a car, a lot of the national parks and wildlife are hundreds of miles out of town, so I cannot get to them. Not planning on racing about the place whilst here. I have seen enough museums and galleries for the time being. Have some planning to sort out for the next
week or two, a few of the hostels are not open yet. Will be by the Great Lakes come Tuesday.

Current day thoughts

Oh, the knicker reference. I have always been bad at chucking out old
underwear, especially knickers. I wear them to the bitter end and, if holey, usually just at the weekends when I don’t go out much. At the beginning of this year I threw away 17 pairs of knickers, most of which were the wrong size and some that had seen better days. The more you wear a pair the more comfortable they are, perhaps that’s why we keep them so long. In keeping them though I do feel that I am doing my bit for the planet in saving resources.

I so remember the pounding of the music coming from the nightclub below my room in Saskatoon. Lucky I never had to get up in the mornings to go to work. My neighbours nowadays play their music just as loud, sometimes way into the night, without a thought to who they might be disturbing.

I was never a great reader as a child and that never improved into my early adulthood. For some reason I just couldn’t get to grips with them. It wasn’t until I saw a TV adaptation of a book I was then reading, (which took me two years to finish), that things just clicked. I was able to put visual images from the TV to the characters in the book and it was all plain sailing from there. So, to have read that much in such a short space of time was quite something for me. I really enjoy reading now.

Nobody makes proper fish and chip shop chips anymore, not even the fish and chip shops in this country; sadly it’s all about being health conscious these days.

When you are on the road, doing a ‘pay as you go’ kind of thing, as opposed to a package holiday already paid for, you really have to think ahead of the moment you are in, so a little research into wherever you intend to travel is a good idea before travel. I knew where I wanted to go and that I was going to hostel, but didn’t delve deeper into the finer details. I found talking to other travellers and the tourist information places a great resource when the way forward was looking bleak.

I did get back into education again, studying with The Open University and enrolling on other home study courses and evening courses at local colleges. I’m still keen to keep on learning new things to keep the brain ticking over.

Saskatoon was very prairie. Small town with lots of open space, but not without its cultural aspects. The Western Development Museum, which as its name suggests, provided information and exhibits dedicated to the development of Saskatoon, including a mock up town that I can only describe as being like a set that would be used to film a western, but a bit more modern. There was also the Wanuskewin Heritage Park which is dedicated to the history of the Native Indian tribes and bison that used to inhabit the plain. It was very peaceful just standing in the looking out across the open plain, imaging the bison roaming free.

Moving onto Winnipeg I got to see my first Mountie, or Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, to give him his official title. I think he
may have been planted for a picture opportunity for tourists, but may be that’s the sceptic in me.

Winnipeg was a lot more built up than Saskatoon, but still not a hugely intimidating city. Winnipeg is home to the Manitoba Legislative Building, where all the political stuff of the region goes on. I didn’t go for a tour, I think I had got to the stage where once you’ve seen one historic building you’ve seen them all. Unfortunately visiting the capital cities/towns of a region, they all have the same stuff to see with similar information. St Boniface Cathedral was quite an interesting building to visit though.
Unfortunately throughout its history the cathedral has suffered damage through fire and has had to be rebuilt on more than one occasion because of that. The current building was built in 1972, with the only remaining part of the previous one being that of the façade, which stands before it. The new cathedral is more modern but still very beautiful inside.

My hostel accommodation was much better than the last one; I had company for one thing. It was set out in the suburbs in
an adapted house. No noisy neighbours.

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Week 16

8 May to 14 May

9 May – Thunder Bay is in Ontario and at the start of the Great Lakes, from the west side it rests on Lake Superior. Ontario is just full of lakes and is the last province that I shall see whilst in Canada.

10 May – I managed to catch a glimpse of the eclipse of the sun.

Current day thoughts

Moving on from Winnipeg, I was now out of the prairies.

I wasn’t able to hostel in Thunder Bay. I managed to get a room in the university there. Most universities rent rooms out in the holidays.
I don’t remember too much about it, but it was comfortable.

Thunder Bay is most famous for, apart from Lake Superior, Terry Fox and the Sleeping Giant. Terry Fox was a young man with cancer, who decided to embark on a run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He ran 3,339 miles before worsening health forced him to stop, close to Thunder Bay. Sadly he passed away not long after that in 1981, aged 22. There is a monument dedicated to him in Thunder Bay, which overlooks Lake Superior. It is coming across things like that that inspires you to make the most of life and challenge yourself.

The Sleeping Giant is a rock formation which resembles a giant lying on its back. I couldn’t see the resemblance from where I was stood, which was far away, but it has its significance in Native Indian legend.

Fort William was also a large attraction. It dates back to the early 19th century and was set up as a trading post. It is now ‘devoted to re-creating the days of the North West Company and the Canadian fur trade.’

There is also a pagoda, built in 1909 on the waterfront, which is now a
tourist information booth.

I remember it being sunny most of the time whilst in Thunder Bay, which
made for great escapes into the fresh air and stunning views across Lake
Superior.

I so wish I had my diary to refer to, with such limited information to hand. Only a few more weeks until things get back on track.

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Week 17 – 15 – 21 May

15 May to 21 May

16 May – Saulte-Ste-Marie is interesting. Between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it hosts part of the St Lawrence Seaway, something we were taught in our geography lessons at school. You can also see across to the United States, but unable to cross the link bridge unless in a motorised vehicle.

17 May – The weather at the moment is sunny, if a little windy. Still some snow on the ground and part frozen lakes. Imagine how cold it must get in winter.

When you see the Lake you could be forgiven for thinking that is was an ocean in its own right. Lake Superior has many beaches around it and many enviable properties dotted along the shores. (Even Lake Winnipeg has its own beach resort, in the middle of Canada).

19 May – Am staying at the university in Sudbury as there is no hostel here. Most people at the university speak French, it is also a catholic run joint, so plenty of crosses about the place. Not much to do in Sudbury, I only intended staying for three days but was cheaper to make a week’s booking at the uni, so spending a couple more days. It is nice to have my own room but can’t wait to get back to the hostels.

I was glad to get here so that I can catch up on my laundry, I am running out of stuff to wear.

20 May – The further east I go the more laid back it gets.

I have a cross hung above my bed. Feel I should be going to confession every day.

Today is really hot, so taking it easy. Have a huge amount of tourist info to plough through. Surrounded by drunks in the park here, sleeping it off. I am sticking to mineral water

21 Saturday – Went to the Science North Centre, a brilliant place. Spent five hours messing around with the experiments and technology. They have one of those huge floor pianos which was great fun. Also got to touch a live python.

Current day thoughts

So, I left Thunder Bay feeling enlightened and moved onto the next town of Sault-Ste-Marie, which, although it was quite small, did hold some interesting things. My geography lessons came rushing back to me when I discovered the St Lawrence Seaway link. I guess something must have
sunk in at school, so not all wasted. Across the bridge in USA is also Saulte Ste Marie, which used to make up the same town as on the Canadian side, but the introduction of the USA border eventually separated them. I’m sure I must have read that somewhere in the history museum in Saulte Ste Marie, but had forgotten, (thank you Google). In fact the St Lawrence Seaway was on the USA side of the water and not the Canadian side.
It was great walking alongside the canals and Soo locks and diving into
the visitors centre and museums to learn all about it.

I also wandered around some beautiful parks which overlook the water and visited the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site, home to Charles Oakes Ermatinger who was a businessman and trader in the area.

Another interesting place was the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, exhibiting a lot of bushplanes through the ages, which were used to drop water on any bushfires in the area. The tour guide was quite persuasive in getting a donation out of me for the cause, gaining me a bushplane pin badge which I still have today.

The size of each Great Lake is quite daunting when you compare them to
the lakes here in the UK. It really is hard to see them as lakes and not seas or oceans.

Such a nice little town. I left part of my heart in Saulte Ste Marie.

Next came Sudbury, and what can I say about Sudbury. Well most of it I would rather put behind me but I guess all that we experience in life shapes us as people and can make us a little wiser. The science centre was fun and there was a nice walk out to a nature reserve, but that’s about it. The priest at the uni was a nice man who looked after us all and gave me some of the food he was taking on a camping trip when the shops were shut. Not quite
sure how I managed to survive 5 days in Sudbury but I did.

It isn’t until you start to explore a country that you realise just how diverse each place is and that is what makes the World tick the way it does. Not always a good thing but wisdom allows you to select in which environment you want to surround yourself, and what to look out for in those you don’t.

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Week 18 – 22 – 28 May

23 May – It has been a bank holiday weekend here, Victoria Day today, and the weather has been beautiful over the past few days, brought the people out in hoards. Most tourist attractions across Canada open fully now, the winter season is over for the time being.

The porter in my residence is also a Jesuit priest and today is a special day in his religious calendar, so he invited myself and two other girls for lunch in one of the buildings here, saved me having to buy any.

Have had a few problems with my feet of late. My heels have developed some nasty blisters, they keep appearing one on top of the other. I think it is a combination of the shoes rubbing and the heat. I am hoping I can control them without medical assistance. They seem to be on the mend quite well now. Aside from that no other problems.

So many famous people have died lately; John Smith, Jackie Onassis, John Candy, can’t keep up with it all. Can get the BBC World News on one of the TV channels, also on the radio, so staying in tune with it all.

Guess the UK bracing itself for the start of the World Cup. I may get to see some but they all watch ice hockey here, so doubt I shall get a look in.

My hair is starting to get quite long now, doesn’t look too bad either. I may have something done to it soon.

Less than a month left in Canada, it’s going by so quickly.

24 May – Glad to get to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. You can see most things in one day, everything is situated in the city centre close to the parliament buildings.

The hostel is spooky, it used to be a jail up until 1972 when it was closed due to the unsanitary conditions. The floor that holds death row is not rented
out to travellers anymore because it is haunted.

Current day thoughts

I suffered a lot with my feet and blisters. I think a lot them happened where the seams on the insides of my socks pressed against the skin. The boots I wore were quite comfortable. So much walking did take its toll on my feet,
more of which I shall talk about at a later date.

I have never been a girly girl, fussing with my appearance all the time. I am a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of girl, and I was too busy with more interesting things anyway, so I never really noticed that my appearance was changing. It never crossed my mind to get a haircut at any point, I just got up every day put a comb through my hair and that was that. It wasn’t until I got to Ottawa that I realised just how long my hair had grown, and it was bleached blonde by the sun beating down on it most days. I was never allowed to keep long hair when I was young, was always told it looked like rats tails, and I thought it was too fine to grow long, so never bothered. How wrong could I be. I first had my hair permed when I was 15, it was the thing to do, and had it permed regularly for the 15 years following. I have not had it permed since and now embrace the natural straightness of my hair, how it is meant to be.

So Ottawa was a very refreshing change to Sudbury. Being the capital of Canada it is a much busier, more happening place, as you would imagine. The parliament buildings look very similar to ours in London. I went up one of the towers to capture the beautiful views across Ottawa. If you walked across one of the many bridges over the Ottawa River, which I did, you were in Quebec.

I went into a town called Hull, just for a peek. Quite a pretty place with nice canals and locks to see.

Again it was the water that drew a lot of attention for me and the Rideau Falls proved no exception. However, not wanting to neglect the pursuit
of cultural education, the National Gallery of Canada was on my agenda, which doesn’t stand out in my memory as having anything that spectacular. Australia is winning in that respect so far.

As I said in my letter home, the hostel was a prison. I had always been rumoured that conditions in the prison were not good, so a journalist got himself arrested on purpose, not sure what for, so he would be sent to jail and could then see for himself what it was like. The rumours were true and
he wrote up quite a piece about his experience inside. Following this the prison was closed after a new modern one had been built. The old prison was turned into a hostel. Guests stay in the cells, from memory I think two to a cell, which were quite cosy.

Shower facilities were quite open, just as the prisoners used, no private cubicles and no being shy. If you were feeling brave you could stay on
death row in the cell used by the last person in Canada to be executed. The experience was just for one night and you could only take a sleeping bag in with you, no other personal effects. If you managed to last the night you didn’t have to pay for the night. I didn’t try it, but did go inside the cell, which was really small and dark. I went on a tour of the prison and got to see the gallows where execution took place. The guide demonstrated how it all worked, with the trap doors opening and a noose falling through. I can still remember the snapping of the noose as it fell.

I had to seek out the emergency room of a hospital to check out a swelling I developed. It was a French speaking hospital but managed to cope ok. Thankfully I only had an infection, which was dealt with by antibiotics. I had my insurance to cover it – never forget insurance because you never know.

Although I am not a religious person I did go visit a lot of churches as most of them have great architecture and artefacts to see. The Notre Dame Basilica was lovely and very peaceful inside. I needed some reflection time so just sat for a while, filling me with a sense of calm.

It is important to stop every so often to take stock of things.

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Week 19 – 29 May
to 4 June

30 May – Orillia, absolutely nothing to do, but good to be able to relax for a few days.

4 June – Had an exhausting day, but it was enjoyable. Mr Frenchman went this morning, cannot remember his name, felt a bit piggish eating my huge breakfast whilst he ate cookies.

Nice day again. To hire a bike if $15, a little steep so I walked to my destination, they said only an hour. I left Orillia centre just after 10:00hrs and got to the Rama Reserve at 13:00hrs. Must have been 7 or 8 miles to get there, my feet will tell you how far. However, the scenery was wonderful and the sun was shining so it was a nice stroll, wish I had worn my boots though. A pleasantly low residential area exists on the Rama road, so nice to see a place that is a proper village. Everything was lush green and peaceful, aside from the busy traffic. Should have hired the bike though, I got a little sunburned from walking. I drank on a regular basis but it went straight through me, so by the time I got anywhere I was desperate for a piss. Thankfully the lady in the Rama Moccasin and Craft Shop let me use her loo. I would have been stuck otherwise.

I bought me a dream catcher, dreams are an important thing to hold on to, they can give your life a purpose or serve as an escapism. I daydream more than at night. I have in the past and do now. They say if you dream about a person dying it’s because you want them out of your life. Psychologically it could be said that these people have become so close to you that you are afraid of their rejection or that one day they will leave you all alone. Feelings brought on by past experiences embedded in the subconscious.
Lately I have thought about my own passing on. Maybe I am still trying
to rid the old me, which is evidently still present, and become somebody new. I certainly am not ready to go yet. I am passing through an uncertain time of my life, I need redemption.

(There has been talk lately about the wearing of turbans in the Royal Canadian Legion. Much argument to ban and lots for. Those for it make reference to the freedom fought for in the wars and the abolition of future wars. One man, an East Indian himself, was against it, he made an important statement, ‘When in Rome’.)

Once I had gotten back to town, well knackered, I decided to sit back and rest at the cinema, ‘The Flinstones’ was showing. Very well put together, so like the cartoon. Wilma is excellent as is Fred. The effects could have been tacky but these were well researched and studied. A big thumbs up to a pleasant 1½ hours escapism. Never been so pleased to get to a cool house, the heat is awful. The fire has finally gone out. Think I will sleep well tonight.

Current day thoughts

From 4 June I am able to get back to entries from my diary, which is a relief. Glad to have had my letters home to refer to though in the interim and photos to remind me of all the great things I have seen and done.
The photos – these will appear by the end of June when I have access to
a scanner.

Ottawa was a nice user friendly city but it was nice to get to the peace and quiet of Orillia, which isn’t on any of the Great Lakes, but between the smaller Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. I wasn’t sure what I would find to do, however found some interesting sites. hostels are generally situated in or near places of interest.

The hostel itself was disappointing to say the least and I sincerely hope it has been closed down by now under the health and safety act. In fact I cannot see it listed anywhere on the internet now. The accommodation was in a basement flat of a small block. It was dingy and damp and I don’t think
anyone came to clean it and I certainly wasn’t going to. The only things to sleep on were mattresses, literally just the mattress, no bedding or pillows. There were cooking facilities but not good ones and from memory I recall an open fireplace. Thankfully it was summer so no need to burn the place down. It was an all-in affair, no separate rooms. There were other people staying at the same time as me and only for a short time. I could have been murdered down there and nobody would know, it was a horrid unsafe place.

In contrast, Orillia itself was quite pleasant. One little gem is the Stephen Leacock Museum.

Stephen Leacock was a writer who had the house built in 1928 and, as was his intention, it is has a feel of England about it, both in style and the garden. It was a beautiful place and I really enjoyed have a look around.

My walk out to the Indian Rama Reserve was quite a day. It was a long trek and was a bit of a disappointment at the end. Not sure what I really expected to be honest. I bought a dream catcher from the gift shop, which I still have today. As for the rest of it all I could see were some wooden shack type houses being lived in, surrounded by fields with something growing in them, not sure what but could have been corn as the plants were quite high. It was quite an open area that didn’t appear to go anywhere. One of the residents spotted me and I felt conspicuous and vulnerable. I didn’t know if I was trespassing or not so turned around and headed back to Orillia.

I was desperate for a pee on the way back too and luckily held on until I reached a gas station. By the time I got back to town my feet were done in. I don’t know if you would call them blisters but the base of my heels were filled with liquid and very sore.

Not sure why I put a reference to the wearing of turbans in, must have heard it on the radio whilst walking along. However, I believe nowadays it is permissible for turbans to be worn on religious ground. There are always arguments for and against with most things and I think the gentleman who said, ‘When in Rome’, has his point, but globalisation is the norm now and if we want peace and harmony we have to allow different cultural practices to exist alongside each other. As long as nobody gets hurt where is the harm. The globalisation of commerce though needs to be addressed if we are to save our own industries and economy.

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Week 20 – 5 June to 11 June

5 June – A much more relaxing day. I was not aching this morning as I imagined I would be. No definite plans so no rush to get out of the house. I only know that I do not want too much sun today.

Took my book with me down to Couchching Park.

Sounds like something going on and there was, a charity fun run or something to that effect. A local radio station was there. T-shirts for sale, much picnicking and jovialities. The water looked so inviting, however, dogs were swimming as well and I hate that. I have developed an aversion to the sea and lakes over the years. This is the place where all the dudes hang out and the well-off drift in their boats or show off on jet skis. Sat for a while in the shade, reading. As well as very informative, the book is entertaining. Got tired of reading and went for a walk down the Main Street of town. Blew my last $4 on food, not good food either, chocolate and Danish pastry. Came back home via the park again for my pig-out, felt sick so I didn’t finish it all.

Read some more before being interrupted by company. Two people, girl and guy, I can never remember people’s names. She is English , he Australian. Definite drifters searching for a corner of the world, at least he is, she does not talk much. They went out to discover Orillia, so I went back out too. The
weather was much cooler, went to the park again, was easier to find a shady seat. Sat and read for an hour and continued along the boardwalk. People sat enjoying a drink on their boats. Sat for yet another hour in the now overcast sky, before coming home.

I settled down to an evening of music, reading and writing. It is more like waffle today just to fill a page. Funny how lack of a TV can make you find things to do. I was asked how I could bear to spend five days here. I need places like this to wind down, can you imagine a whole year spent rushing around cities as a tourist, would wear me out in no time. I need to feel the comparison of life in a small town so as to have an objective opinion. I am more inspired to thought in a quiet place.

6 June – Rain this morning, typical. Had an interesting two hour journey to Toronto. An old guy, 86yrs old, attached himself to me. Likes to think he is still in with the young scene, is too chivalrous for that one. Claims he is engaged to be married to a twenty nine year old, sounds like a weird set up to me, if it is true. I let him do all the talking whilst I looked out of the window pretending to listen. Haven’t spoken to such an awful person in a long time.

Was thankfully dry in Toronto, if a little warm. The hostel was close to the bus station, however had to wind my way through a variety of persons to get there. Bodies lying in the street being ignored by everyone, weirdo’s staring, hoards of workers and road work men. Not such a good area again, but nice hostel. Lockers are pay again, so nowhere to put clothing and stuff without paying out. Looks like a lot of attractions are out of town, think I will have to adopt my USA budget for Canada and vice versa, will still be over budget, must check on the balance of account.

Went to the nearest mall for a bite to eat, managed to get souvenirs and cards in one place. Spent rest of afternoon writing cards, reading information and sorting out my G.S.T refund.

Have a few mean bites on my leg, must be the sleeping bag.

Half go out, half stay in, so will have a choice each night I guess.

7 June – An overcast but humid day, set off to check the city out. Walked down to the harbour and was fairly disappointed, should maybe hang left next time and see what is along there. The ferries are only $3 to the islands so will take advantage of that. Followed the boardwalk past a marina, theatre and entertainment centre, not very exciting. Toronto is a shit city and smoggy, not too keen on the hostellers either. They are a bunch of dossers, many looking for work and they all want to go out and get pissed. Spongers too, my milk was all but gone this morning. Drop outs and beggars on the streets, I crave the slow lane away from it all.

One of the Ozzie girls in our dorm thinks she’s something special, told me there is nothing to do in Niagara. She was definitely not inspired by the falls, sad person.

The C.N. Tower and Skydome were close by, so off I went. There are tours of the Dome so will choose either a tour or a game, depending on my finances, I think I know which one it will be.

The C.N. Tower also offers a combination of entertainment, is $12, I could get in for $6.00, but have decided it is only a tower after all and I will simply haveextensive views of a city, maybe into the States also. Will think on it. Next thing to check out was the Casa Loma, only took an hour to walk it. Passed through China town along Spandia Avenue. Could have been in China, the streets were crowded with vehicles and side-walks with people and stalls. Music drowned every other sound out. Suddenly I was out of the crowds and in the clear. Took a few wrong turns but got to the castle eventually.

My bite has quadrupled in size and is giving me hassle in the humidity. Was desperate for a pee, but begrudged having to spend $8.00 to get in. The inside is as decorative as the outer, however, well restored and in the process of, the rooms lacked the original stuff, most of them anyway. This was due to the selling off of items in the 1920’s because of financial ruin of Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, owner. The tours are self-guiding with audio tapes
and headphones. Loved the conservatory and Sir Henry’s suite.

Strolled in the gardens and generally spent a pleasant couple of hours there. Do get the impression that Toronto is a rip-off city. Finally went down into the basement, wine cellar, swimming pool and the stables. To get to the stables, which appear to be the other side of the street and further, you have to go via a tunnel. The tunnel is narrow, creepy and very long and, after seeing the stables and garage you have to come back along the tunnel again. Walking back was quicker but the heat not so. Bought my tea and the rest is history.

The Ozzies and I put washing in together to save money. The attitude one has gone out to get drunk, she leaves tomorrow to work at a summer camp in the States, poor kids. Will try to get a free breakfast in the morning.

8 June – Much cooler today but still warm. No real plans of what to do, however, I do want to get out of the down town area. I started to walk Queen Street East towards the eastern beaches. The first part went through some very undesirable areas, crossed the road at one point as I could see eyes staring on the opposite corner. Gave in eventually and took the bus, $2.00, the most expensive yet for a one way journey.

The Woodbine Park Beach was surprisingly larger and cleaner than I expected. Spent a leisurely three hours strolling along the boardwalk, or sat watching the lake, keep wanting to call it the ocean. Quite a lengthy walk if you go to the farthest most point of the area. A popular area for mothers and babies, some push chairs being trolleyed along by roller-bladed women. Made sure I took the bus back into town, could not face that road again.

Have had a shit day from the diet point of view, will try to put it back on the right tracks soon. My bite is a lot better today. One of the girls I met in Ottawa is back here in Toronto for a couple of days, so nice to see a friendly face and have a chat.

Am very tempted to test the theory of some of the jet setters I have come across. Instead of sticking to a small corner of the U.S., depending on bus routes/flights and costs, I may get a pass and race around various parts of the country, taking in some major sights but only staying for a couple of days at a time, whilst making sure I still get to see Maine, Vermont etc and I will stay out of the cities as best I can, so as to avoid the trouble. Would love to see the Grand Canyon and go to Disneyland.

Have discovered some of the baseball tickets are fairly cheap, cheaper than a tour (the tour does not sound so wonderful), so maybe check it out tomorrow. Left a message on the answerphone in connection with the writers’ workshop, so if she does not get back to me here I shall have to forget it.

Am learning the value of taking transport too and from places in these cities. Apart from having to walk miles to get anywhere I could have gotten into trouble at times. However, showing your fear is often worse than simply putting your head down and walking confidently through an area. Fortunately I have developed a quick pace so do not look as though I am asking for trouble.

9 June – Really did not do anything today, it was nonetheless a thought provoking day in the worst sense. The workshop lady did ring back yesterday, I was here so have no idea why I was not located. Does not appear to be a tannoy system in operation. Have tried ringing today, but get the answer machine. Jenny has gone today, she starts work in San Diego on Saturday at summer camp.

I went to the Skydome to check out the ticket situation for Saturday and Sunday, sold out, so they say. Can turn up on the day to see what is available, if anything. Plenty of touts outside selling though, prices higher than the normal. If I cannot get a ticket I will go Monday for a grand tour. Found the Metro Library on Yonge Street, massive place, five storeys high and very modern. Had nothing else to do so I filled my brain with knowledge, satisfied a few nagging questions.

A lot of things I read recently are so current to me, they make me realise all that it is I have been, the way I am seen. I hate it all. This is a time when I should not be worrying about things, it should be only joyous. It has not only been a visual growth and mental growth experience but also of personal growth. Maybe I am tired of Canada, I hope the USA will stir the excitement up.

10 June – Giving up on workshop tomorrow, will keep trying though. Feeling a lot better today, had something to do to occupy my mind.

Went over to the islands just ten minutes off of the mainland. Was sunny but cool with the breeze from the lake. The centre island is the main focal point. Fun park, gardens, beach, bicycle hire, stuff like that. The main activity of the day, which most people enjoyed, was how to get passed the jets of water, wetting the grass. The general opinion, old or young, was too hell with it, let’s get wet. A free tram ride was available to the furthest point west of the island, Hanlans point, so took advantage, could have gotten off along the way but I did the round trip. Not so much to see but could have made a pleasant walk along the shore, the island is only about 5km from end to end. Decided to walk to the east side, glad I did, it was the better. Houseboats, marina and the cutest little village you ever saw. The streets just a couple of strides wide, a cluster of pretty little houses in one corner of the island. Country gardens, all protected in a leafy glade. No cars evident, no need. A perfect retirement haven. On the way back I crossed a bridge by the marina and was on a smaller island, Algonquin. Again, another group of houses, larger but on a similar basis. No way off except boat or bridge. Have the best views of the city skyline from the islands, through the haze. Strolled back to Centreville and sat for a while, not so much to do on the island, nice to laze on the beach type of place. We all piled on to the next ferry, no head count, just a surge all at once.

Was hungry when I got back to the city so went for a bite and came back to the hostel. At least I can say I have been across to the island, this is such a dull place unless you have money to throw away. Jenny said she was glad to be starting work, she was bored and needed tobe doing something. I only get bored of some places I am in, not of being away or not working. I feel as though I am working, from all of the things I learn. I like to think being away from distraction helps. Sometimes I do let my imagination get out of hand, I can understand how some people can drive themselves mad through blind panic, worry, diminished responsibility. There is a maniac in all of us waiting to come out, we just have to learn how to control it, not always to advantage. I am doing the self psycho bit at the moment. I know all of the problems within me and I can say that I am fairly sure of how and why, however, I do not know how to deal with them effectively so as not to let them rule me.

11 June – Forget the workshop, $95, can’t afford that much, shame really, but I can manage to wait until I am home.

So, to the Skydome. Went prepared for snow. They said it may rain
later. The queue was small so could be in with a chance. The guy in front was not so lucky, no more room wheelchairs. Took a $13 ticket, with partially obstructed view, turned out to be not a bad spot, despite being right at the back.

Two kids kept edging their way along my row as ticket holders claimed their seats, not sure they were officially allowed in. Eventually they disappeared never to return. The crowd drifted in, some halfway through the game, most sped out before the end when it was evident the Blue Jays were not going to win, the decider game is tomorrow, will probably be more exciting as well. Not that I really understand much about the game, but not a lot of outstanding play. I did concentrate more on this game than the one in Shea Stadium, so can say that I do know a little more on the run of play. The crowd just eat and drink the whole time and make a hell of a mess, without any conscience. The atmosphere is good though and all
of the commentary, no waves got going today. The game is a bit long and can get boring if not exciting enough. Over 3 hrs I was there, glad I took the lotion with me. Was quick in getting out, the crowd just milled along, would have been a different story if the Jays had won. Will try to get a glimpse from the tower tomorrow, if I go up. Watching the roof go back was interesting, it all folds neatly into a bunch at one end, very clever mechanism. Was tired by the end of it all, thankfully stayed dry until I
was almost back.

Had an evening of chatting to a girl from South Africa, she told me her name but I can’t remember. Sounds like she has the same ideas as me on the USA and on life in general, could travel around the US with her if we could meet somewhere. Have a really dry throat today.

Current day thoughts

I have edited quite a lot out of my diary for this week. You never know who’s reading and I don’t want to give too much of myself away. A diary can be quite a good place to let off steam and get inner thoughts out, but not always good if other people get to read them. If I had shared everything I wrote with you, you might want to have me locked away for my own protection. Guess that’s just me but I don’t have to work on it anymore, so let’s move on.

When I wrote, ‘I have developed an aversion to the sea and lakes over the years’, I was referring to swimming in them as I really do love to sit an look out across water or sail in a boat. May be I have watched too many movies, I just don’t enjoy being in water as much as I used to.

I really ripped into Toronto. The area the hostel was situated in was not
the best area, it really showed the downside of how those less fortunate than us get to live. The hostel was clearly open to anyone who could afford to stay there, so there was quite a mix between tourists and others who just wanted a roof over their head. It’s the same the world over. I guess I will never understand why some people give up and stop trying to improve their situation. I hope I never get to that stage. I am a lot more sympathetic now than back then, perhaps due to more awareness in society. I grew up in a nice cosy situation, not exposed to that sort of thing. I knew about tramps but the word carried a different meaning to today We don’t call even use it anymore. We were taught to stay away from tramps, they were not nice people, so I guess I was a little frightened being smack bang in the middle of so many. Being in London I see homelessness every day and I still feel vulnerable. The rest of Toronto was not so bad really, it had the usual stuff to see and I was able to escape the city on occasion. Tourists the world over are ripped off, so nothing new.

I went on a bit about the workshop. I have no recollection of what that was
about. Again, so many things I got my teeth stuck into but cannot remember doing. And the people I met, forget it.

I went to a baseball game in New York’s Shea Stadium in 1985. I never concentrated on the game, it was the atmosphere that grabbed me and it was the same in Toronto. I have just learned that Shea Stadium was demolished in 2009.

How could I ever get tired of Canada.

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Week 21 – 12 June to 18 June

12 June – Apparently the game was not so good today, but the Blue Jays won.

The library was closed so had to shelve that idea, so hot again.

My armpits have come out in some kind of rash so really freaking out at the moment, could not say that the glands are swollen though, throat still dry.

Hung around the C.N. Tower until after the game had started. Finally homed in on a group who did not want to pay the full $12 fee, one of them came up with me on the 2 for 1 coupon. Was a waste of time really, the weather was busy so the views were limited; Toronto is not an exciting city to look at, all buildings and cars. Could not even catch a look at the game, the dome was over the pitch. My new friends are all Irish and work in Boston, been over in the States for a year now. Neither of us were impressed so we did not stay out that long but at least we can say we have done it.

Came back to the hostel, even hotter inside, rain outside. Had a chat with an English couple from Preston, they are brother and sister. He went to the ball game today. They travel together but seem to do their own thing. He has
travelled extensively, wants to be a geography teacher, she a social worker,
but does not want to have to get a job yet. Nice pair of people. Stupid film on
tonight but we are all stuck in front of the box. Glad to be leaving tomorrow.

13 June – No breakfast this morning, had to actually buy some, made a change to see people walk about with blank expressions instead of muffins and pastries. Got caught by Larry so decided to leave early, on the 12 o’clock bus.

Got to Niagara at 14:30 hrs, not a very scenic route. Hard to believe you are about to embark upon one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The hostel was easy to find, but could not check in until 19:00 hrs, so walked off to the Falls, took about 20/30 mins or so, was disappointed with amount of buildings and stuff close by. They say it is nicer on the USA side, will find out sooner or later. Have to do the ‘Maid of the Mist’ tour, got my plastic mac. Bumped into Cath and her brother, we chatted for ages, he went off; don’t think he likes hanging around people. Walked back to the bus station with her, glad I did cause it pissed down with rain shortly after, will take a longer hike tomorrow and really take the Falls in, don’t know how they can say that one day is enough here.

Had a bit of hassle in the grocers, but soon sorted, had to use my last traveller’s cheque up in the process. The rooms etc. in the hostel are really nice, using a sheet tonight to see if I cope better with the heat. Good crowd here tonight, most moving out tomorrow, quite a mixed bunch of nationalities. Think we may have all gone out if it had not been raining outside. It is nicer with a small bunch of people, everyone gets to know each other, even the girl that works here joins in. There was a guy from Stevenage here as well, out here for a month.

14 June – Have a guitar serenade whilst writing this, a Japanese guy is strumming away, pretty good too.

Had a good look at the Falls today, tried to imagine the area as it would have been before the builders took over, just natural vegetation. Would be so much more amazing I think. They should have declared the area a national park conservation spot and built the towns, on both sides, about half a mile away. A few pathways for people to walk or cycle down, no cars. Wouldn’t kill people to have to walk. They could still run the boat trips and stuff, only on a more tasteful basis.

First thing I did was to get in line for the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat trip. Should have waited for the next one and got a better spot. They just pile loads on, some people just get wet without seeing anything. A standard issue blue plastic raincoat in handed out before embarking, sufficient to serve its purpose but not worth keeping, more worthwhile to re-cycle. It is a wonder the boats mange to stay afloat, they take you right in to the Horseshoe Falls and the swell of the water is terrific. Looking up at the water surging over the top, it doesn’t look real, it is just a totally unreal experience. Luckily I managed to get some piccies.


Continued to walk along to the Horseshoes and got a view of the water from the top down, could almost stand on top of them.

The Niagara river quite a ways back is rapidy, no chance once you get caught up in them. Nice parkland if you follow the road along. Went around Dufferin Islands, think this is where I may have gotten my next mega bite. Just standing and looking at the Falls was enough for me for the remainder of the afternoon. I want the memory forever, still can’t take them in. Got some pressies and headed back home.

Went back down to see them in the dark. Tinsel town was ablaze. All they do to light the Falls up is to shine different coloured lights on to them to get an effect on the 170 ft drop of water. Just another gimmick really. So hot again tonight, my legs look like a battle ground.

15 June – Lounged around until just after 12 o’clock, it was closer to 13:00 hrs. Wrote my letters and tried to stay cool, difficult. Not looking forward to my trek across the bridge. Tried to stick to the shade where I could and took a couple of breaks, not that I sat for long, did not take as long as I imagined. Was 25 cents to go across, flaming cheek. The guy that was at the immigration was friendly and did not give me any hassle, just wanted to get the back pack off, absolutely sweltering underneath it. Took a little walk to get to the hostel through, which is apparently, not a desirable part of town. Looks like most of the town is the same. Surprised there was anything left of me, my clothes were dripping wet with sweat. Had to wait a couple of hours to get in, was so glad to have a shower. Hostel is better this side than on the other, very strict, but well fun.

Phoned the Trek-America number, gave them a few places I wanted to go and, hey presto a brilliant schedule came to light, very cheap as well. So all I have to do is sort out how to get to L.A. and we are all square.

Heike gave me some tablets and gel for my bite, they zonk you out so, despite the heat, I was out like a light. Hated having anything on, was so sticky out. Two girls from South Africa were telling me of the trip they are doing, so many places, so I assumed they were away for ages. Two weeks that’s all, they must be knackered.

16 June – Will not be doing much today, its sooo hot. The 09:30 hrs chuck out in the morning is a bit much, 6½ hrs before we can get back in. My bite is going now as are my other ills, so feeling a lot better about myself, not so frantic, my mind is clearing.

Popped into the Greyhound Station, the woman was so matter of fact, not so helpful. You have to know exactly where you are going as no schedules available to view. Anyways, I have to check my hostel book out before I decide, the trip goes off in 16 days, so have a while to sort it out.

Went down to the Falls to see them from this side, too hot to stay out of the shade for long. Not really that interested in the Falls today so found a shady spot to sit under for an hour, spent the rest of the time diving in and out of air conditioned places. I think the pill I took today made me drowsy, could not concentrate on anything.

Eventually got into the hostel and had a wonderful shower, was not long before I needed another.

Worked out a hostel route to L.A. not many accessible ones in the upper States, will still only cost me $179. Phoned the Trek America again booked my place, will be able to fill out a booking form in Chicago and sort everything out, pretty good stuff. Looking forward to it, so much more that I
would like to see, however, I figure I am going to see more than I was
intending to, plus I get to go to Disney.

Was nice sitting by the water today, could have fallen asleep, was mesmerising. The rushing water so cleansing rushing through me, makes you feel good. Could be hectic for a few days but have to click in, wake up and go with the flow.

Not so much to write about today, too hot to think.

17 June – Just knew today was not going to go as smooth as a baby’s bum. Left the hostel at 09:30 hrs with Heike and went to the station. Only 89 degrees today compared to 102 yesterday. Was still good to be in an air conditioned place. I laid my plans down, my ticket was drawn out, I paid my $179 to L.A. with stopovers. Caught the early bus to Buffalo, said my goodbye to Heike, everything was hunky dory. I went to the ticket place to reserve a space on the bus and this is where my problems started. She re-did my ticket by computer, however, and I am glad I checked it, I now had a direct route, continuous, to L.A. no stopovers. Queried it, told them had made a mistake, was ushered to the customer services office, really mad by now. I would have to purchase tickets separately if I wanted to stopover, would cost double $179 plus. No way I am doing that. So we worked out various routes and they still came out expensive. If I cancelled my original ticket in favour of a new one I would lose 15% against it, all because the Greyhound company made an error. I would be penalised. Settled for just
Salt Lake City and L.A., only another $52 dollars on top. However, and I was
fed up with arguing by now, what they did was to issue another ticket to Salt Lake City and I have to purchase another to L.A. when there, $72, so I lose out totally. Maybe somebody at the hostel there is going to L.A., I can share petrol, I refuse to give Greyhound any more if I can help it. They have
obviously never heard of the ‘taken in faith’ policy or the ‘customer is always right’. I hope they sack the Niagara lady, don’t need no more shit. Got through Oz and Canada, no hassle, been here less than a week and I get this. Now going, Buffalo, Chicago, Salt Lake City, L.A. Cannot cancel my reservation in Detroit so guess they will just let the room go, lucky no deposit paid. I will wait until I get to Salt Lake City in the morning to book there, maybe too late. I also have to phone Trek America to re-sort my booking, hope they have a fax at the hostel, such a pain in the butt.

In Ohio now, looks like they had rain, cleared the air a bit. A low mist all around the countryside. Not impressed with USA yet. Just hope my pack is on the coach, what are my chances based on today. Had some company up to Cleveland, an 18 year old girl from Croydon. Doing west and east Canada, going to Calgary Stampede, being met by friends in Cleveland to stay a few days. Wish I was her right now. Seems more expensive here than Canada. If I had known what I was going to do in USA I would have bought a bus pass at home. I think it may have expired by now though, at least I can warn others back home with my new found wisdom. (Now writing this 3 days
later due to horrendous journey). Reached Chicago in good time.

18 June – Today was just the icing on the cake. No driver to take us to Cheyenne, actually it was Omaha first. So 1½ hrs late leaving. The bus was calm at this stage. Tried to sleep, but hardly did. So we get to Des Moines and, surprise, surprise, delayed again. So hot and muggy. Can’t even remember if I am writing this correctly, so much hassle. To Omaha now, new driver. Moved seats due to families getting on board. Not much of a journey to comment on, a few stops to refresh, hate trips like this, don’t eat or drink properly and have to keep the same clothes on for days. The time differences do not help. Got to Omaha early evening, no driver to carry us off, all banging our heads against each other as well as the wall, reckon we are about 2¼ hrs late, nobody tells us anything though, we just get left to wait. Those who have connecting buses in Salt Lake City are never going to get them. Had a little better night’s sleep, Rajiv and I used each other as pillows, we thought we knew each other well enough by now. The few stops interrupted the sleep so was annoying. Morning was quick in coming,
breakfast was shit. Much farming land, however, a little more picturesque than Canada’s prairies, some quite cute farms dotted around. Maybe we will have better luck in Cheyenne. We have the cutest baby on board, she hardly cries, so happy and content, everybody wants to hold her for a while and she loves it. Cheyenne was no better, the bus: actually Cheyenne happened before morning, you see I am so confused about it all: well the bus was taken away for a wash and brush up and the driver, what driver, they had no driver for us, we didn’t expect one. Once all was sorted we had an express bus all the way to Salt Lake City.

Current day thoughts

‘the weather was busy’ – It must have been a mixed day with sunshine and showers or something, lots of weather going on.

It was a shock to get to Niagara in Canada and find the town so tacky, blame us tourists I guess. The USA side was much nicer around the Falls, with park land, much more tasteful. I can still remember the roaring sound of the water, from both the Falls and from the river running down towards them at such a terrific speed. There didn’t appear to be any secure barriers to prevent anyone from either jumping into the river or going over the Falls, very open. Bit scary to be honest.

I am a bit of a magnet for mosquitos and midges but have never suffered just raging bites as the ones I got in Niagara. Thankfully my friend Heike was there to offer advice.

Heike was a German lady and we got on well, in fact we corresponded for many years after I returned home and then just stopped. Anyway, it was great to find some greenery to walk amongst on the Canadian side.

Once I was across the border into the USA, the walk to the hostel was interesting. I took the most direct route according to the map; it was literally as the crow flies. The route was in a rundown part of town,
through a residential area. I got a little way along the route and some people acknowledged me from their veranda, and a little further along a guy on a bicycle (looked like a chopper from the 70s) circled twice around me and then rode off. I didn’t stop or flinch, but kept walking. I realised then that I was not in a good part of town and perhaps he served as a warning to stay away or get out as soon as I could. When I checked in at the hostel I was given a map of the area and was told which the safest places were, suffice to say the route I took was not on that list.

There are so many travellers out there who cram a lot of places into a small amount of time. I am so glad to have had a much more leisurely trip.

I really wanted to get to Detroit to see the Motown Museum. I remember the lady at the Greyhound station asking why I wanted to go to Detroit, she seemed quite concerned that I should want to, so maybe it was a good thing I missed it. I don’t have the craving to visit anymore. I was really hacked of at having my scheduled plans disrupted though.

Two days cramped onto a bus, seemed like forever. Thankfully everyone was nice. I feel that going Greyhound you get to experience the real America. So much more to come.

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Week 22 – 19 June to 25 June

19 June – Never made up the time though. Came through the Rockies, the scenery was so pretty, still a little snow on the mountain tops. Salt Lake City sucked up to everyone, they could not have been more apologetic. Coffee, sarnies laid on, those who missed their buses would have had to wait at the depot for 10 hrs until the next one, so hotel rooms were laid on as well. Managed to get one too, I would get a free night’s accommodation. Chauffeur driven to the Ramada Inn, we all settled in for a shower and sleep.

Salt Lake City has some beautiful scenery round about it, no sign of the Lake yet. The city is huge, but the actual buildings not so built up, the roads are huge. I like towns like this, they have character, very quiet on the streets, too hot I guess. Went out for a meal at the Olive Garden, an Italian joint. Due to the past few days my appetite has been suppressed so never ate very much except salad, took some home for breakfast tomorrow, yeuky! Still very hot sun late in the evening. So knackered just want to sleep tonight, nice bed, air conditioning, shower, television.

20 June – Still tired this morning, don’t have to be out until noon. Got the hotel van to the Greyhound station, have to sort my ticket out. It seems that I should only have been charged $68 dollars for the trip so a refund was offered of $111. However I told them that all I wanted was a ticket to L.A., so I got a complementary one to use when I like. I am happy now, the Buffalo crowd are going to be sorted out.

Walked a ways in the heat to the hostel, not so far out of the town. Walked to the post office and got the stamps n stuff. There was nearly a brawl in the queue, some people, no patience.

The Trek America have an agent in the city which is good. Made the long, long walk to reach it, would have taken a bus if I had known. So many poor people in the city. Now I really do not know what I am doing over here, not impressed with USA at all. The 6 week trip is $1780 plus, knew it was too good to be true. What to do now, simply cannot afford that amount of money. To think I could be in Buffalo with Bob now. Filtered through the brochure, but could not find anything better, came away very dissatisfied and with the brochure.

Got some groceries and came back to the hostel. I do not feel like eating but have to, the heat is awful and I have a rash on my legs from it. Just spent tonight thinking about what I do now, I do not want to waste my time here in the USA. Think I can do it cheaper on my own. See a few things this side and go straight back across to New York City and do something over there. If they have trips out to the Canyon I will get on one, do Disneyland and make that do. What a bastard.

21 June – Wanted to get an early start, however, our sweetie manager was late getting is act together, so had to hang around a while. Got me a seat on a tour out to the Salt Lake tomorrow at 14:00 hrs and sent my package back to UK. Those little jobs done I was ready for my day, it was much cooler as well. Hunted the malls for my souvenirs and then went to the Temple Square.

Today was one of those thought provoking times, when conscience stirs. Tours of the square got going every 10 minutes, they are conducted by missionaries. I now have an understanding of what it is Christian Stoker is doing. The girl was very knowledgeable and, I think, would make a perfect match for Christian. The guys go on a mission, anywhere in the world, for 2 years and the girls for 18 months. Everything in the square is very compacted, so difficult to take any decent photos. We had a brief history of the Temple, seems that only members of the faith can get in, very strict on that one. The Mormons are actually of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Old Testament. Then you walk through the Tabernacle
where the famous Tabernacle Choir perform, hopefully I can get to see them on Thursday night before I leave. It also holds a magnificent organ, tried to think of a better way to put it, just my mind working overtime. It is the 7th largest in the world, and has over 1500 pipes, quite spectacular. Our tour ends in the North Visitors Centre.

A statue of Jesus Christ is on the top floor and the walls and domed ceiling are all painted with the sky and clouds and stars and planets, very beautiful. We sat for a while and listened to a teaching of Jesus. They say that the room is a very peaceful place, but I never got anything from it. I can sit in a church and feel the calm, but not here. Down stairs we had a short video presentation of the meaning of life, kind of makes you think. They have touch screen videos to answer any questions you have on religion or life. I tried one on families but the voice over is very loud, so everyone knows what it is you are listening to. I guess being open is one of the things they teach you. I was the only one of our group to fill out a visitor card, the rest were just tourists looking around, not really interested in a contribution. You have the opportunity to have the book of Mormons sent to you, but I declined and they are cool about that. It would be interesting to read but I have learned enough for the moment. I think if every person were to learn just a little of other religions, then they could understand and respect and not be afraid of something different and then the wars would cease. The church is the main instigator of war, funny, seeing as how god teaches us peace and understanding. I was given a ticket to see a movie, ‘Legacy’, in another building, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Joseph Smith was the original prophet of the Mormons. Had a little while to
kill before the showing, so had a snack and watched a world cup game in a mall. The film was good, just told the story of the Mormon struggle to find their land in the USA, not too spectacular. All the things I did today are free, the Mormons love to share. Everything I saw today was very plush, I think the inside of the Temple is as well. Also sat through a selection of organ recitals, the acoustics are said to be magnificent.

Had a horrible supper, meat pit and chilli and spent the evening writing up on this epic. The summer solstice today.

22 June – A few hours to kill before the tour out to the Lake. Got up late and ate breakfast late. Just moseyed around the town in the heat, the Disney store got me stirred for L.A. the Lion King is being plugged at the moment. Wandered back to the Temple Square to see inside the Assembly Hall, yet another organ. Sat for a while outside soaking up the atmosphere, was bugged again for a book of the Mormons. There is actually one here at the hostel, looks very time consuming.

Got to the Shils Inn fairly early so as not to be all hot and bothered for the trip. Only six of us so good number, we got away on time as well. Bit of a clever bus driver, can communicate in a few languages, even Japanese. First went to the Kennecott open pit copper mine, made sure we stopped at the souvenir shop first.

The mine is the largest man made excavation and only produces 15% of USA copper. I viewed the centre of the mine through binoculars, just amazing how big the whole thing is. Reminded me of the Flinstones. Good to see the lorries, loaded from the centre, travel around and up to the crushing system, where it comes out as powder to be piped to the process area. We were given a sample of the copper ore. The area is set in the Bingham Canyon, I think it could be said, part of the tail end of the Rocky Mountains. We only had 20 minutes there, so not nearly enough time.

On to the great Salt Lake, we stopped off at the Saltair resort, which has taken three attempts to establish. Spoils it a lot, very tacky with amusements, camel rides and the pavilion is not much good either. The smell in the air is dreadful but you get used to it. Again hard to believe it is a lake. Could have spent a whole day here just gazing out on to the horizon, it was so beautiful. Just touched the water, would have gone for a swim if we had longer. Hundreds of millions of tiny flies swarmed at the lake edge, apparently they only eat the shrimp so no worries. Hated leaving, I was captured by the view. Another world famous I have seen.

Another girl from the hostel was in our group so we got chatting, as did one of the guys, from Louisiana. He gave each of us his address should we be in that area. He wanted to take us for a cool drink after, think he fancied his chances. We politely declined and came back home via the supermarket. The tour ended an hour short, a real rip off when you think about it.

There are credit card phones in Salt Lake City somewhere according to the operator, so that is one of my tasks tomorrow.

23 June – This has probably been one of the longest days so far. I managed to make my time at the hostel stretch until 10:00 hrs. Over a huge breakfast I met Don, Don is a mine of information when it came to travelling, he likes to help young people out whenever he can. I came away with some useful information and someone to carry one of my bags to the Greyhound station. My stomach was playing up first thing, probably what I had yesterday and my left armpit is giving me cause for concern. Been sneezing all day too, so hope I am not going through a bad stage again. So I have twelve hours to kill before my departure.

Managed to find a payphone that would charge to my Mastercard, at a discount, so was able to make my reservation for L.A. Was hoping that it would take longer than this to sort out. I never planned on drinking much or buying food today, I had a huge breakfast after all and some sarnies packed away. However, when you are bored it is surprising how much you buy in order to while away the hours and to make yourself look not so
vacant and bewildered.

Hit the shopping malls for a while, becoming quite a regular, the workers must have wondered at the amount of times they saw me today. Braved the heat and walked up the hill to the Capitol Building, plays the most beautiful 12 o’clock chimes I have ever heard. Not sure of whether you could go in or not so sat in the gardens for a rest. Found a shady tree to sit under for lunch. I wasn’t even hungry, but now it is gone. The Pioneer Memorial Museum was just next door so decided to kill a couple of hours there, it was free. It is run by daughters of the first pioneers and contains artefacts from families dating right back to 1800’s. Nothing too interesting to look at, except for the doll collection, handmade of all nations and some of the wagons and carriages. The most amazing thing was the huge number of photographs everywhere, 2000 or more I should say, everywhere. Back
into town again, only seven hours to go. Sat in the shade, wandered the malls again, eventually had something to eat, crazy person. The thing I like about the city is the number of drinks fountains everywhere, never need to buy a drink. The fountain in the office building square is the perfect setting for wedding photos, some going on today.

Waiting now in Temple Square for the start of the choir practice.

So I have now seen the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, they sang so beautifully. So many people coming and going through, it was sometimes difficult to hear. The lower area was packed out, glad I started to queue when I did.

Had to leave at 21:00 hrs for the bus depot, doesn’t look like many people here for the L.A. run, maybe get a whole seat to myself. Surprise! The bus was an hour late going out.

24 June – Not a brilliant night, but not bad. Didn’t even bother getting out for the 30 minutes stop. Got to Las Vegas around 06:30 hrs, pretty warm, lots of people up working already to beat the heat. Glad I am not staying here, looks really trashy, not quite what I expected. Supposed to be cheap to stay though.

The scenery in the Nevada Desert is brilliant. Just sand and hills relatively untouched landscape. It oozes tranquillity. A little further along the road and more than once, we come across small complexes. Couple of hotels and gas station, they look like toy town palaces stuck in the middle of nowhere. All with casinos of course. Will reach L.A. around 14:30 hrs. A scenic journey, but too tired to take it all in, had a creep sitting next to me at one stage. I have never come across a company so rude and unhelpful, get the
feeling I am not the only one. The information man lacked it and the customer services not there. Have visions of being here all night. Managed after a long wait to get a ticket to Long Beach, hopefully there is a bus to take me the rest of the way. Very bitty area. There are a lot of nice house settings amongst the hills, but the freeways and factories spoil it. Could barely see the mountains in the near distance due to smog, just covers an immense area, face masks out. I will work out tonight my next move and get tickets from Long Beach.

Took a long time, but finally managed to make it to the hostel, escorted by a bevy of local girls going my way. This is definitely a young person’s hostel, not me at all. Seems like they all get pissed or stoned every day, think I will hang out for one week only. Can’t stand the pace, showers are very open, no door, loos are nearly as bad with no curtains. Sharing with a couple of New
Zealand girls, twins, have one week to spend with them, bad news. May check into another listed hostel after this.

25 June – Got up early so as to catch the shower, can’t imagine anyone else rising before 10:00 hrs. First move was the Greyhound station in Long Beach, buses were fairly swift so not much hanging around, had time for a lovely breakfast from Taco Line. The guy behind the counter was a bit vague, so only booked my tickets to San Diego and then to Flagstaff in a week and two respectively. Should kill some time before heading east, can go directly to Lake George. Will prepare better for the 3 night trip.

Once finished in Long Beach I came back here, managed to get the grocery shop done in between. Not much activity at the hostel, those around seemed dead, probably preparing for the night life. Only one person, so far, who seems human. Not sure if he is sure about this place either, he is just hanging around until he starts work as an au pair. The money is not going too badly, managing to cope. Going to Disneyland on Monday, early. Hit the beach tomorrow.

Walked down main street, felt very old and frumpy. Full of young healthy men and women in short shorts and bikini tops. This must be the only street in Huntington. Had an amazing ice cream, thickest chocolate covered in nuts, resisted the chocolate covered bananas with nuts all over it. The pier makes a nice refreshing walk in to the sea breeze. Did not look like
much surf rising itself for the surfers. Gazing out on to the ocean blue and
the golden beach you see the surf, boats, palm trees, bronzed bodies, oil rigs
and smog, the horizon completely disappears, can imagine I am walking through it constantly. On the way back along the pier a guy went by with his pet python around his neck, such an outrageous place.

Dinner was a little hot, too much seasoning, have to get used to it though for India. Stephanie was telling me I should go up to the Hollywood area and look around, would be good to have someone to go with. The beaches are supposed to be good, but there is a lot of pollution around. Glad I didn’t go to Venice Beach, not such a good hostel or area, good advice there. Feel a lot more organised today. Will hang around tonight and see what is going down.

Current day thoughts

I finally made it to one of the places I promised myself I would go to when I was a child, Salt Lake City. I was first made aware of Salt Lake City through The Osmond’s back in the 70s.  Like most young girls I was a fan and learned as much as I could about them. My mum bought me The Osmond’s
magazine every month. They came from nearby Salt Lake City and were Mormons, so I was very excited to be there and take it all in. The family I stayed with on Vancouver Island, Canada, are Mormons and their son Christian was away, can’t remember where, on his mission to spread the word about his faith. Pretty much everything in the centre of Salt Lake City is Mormon related and I loved every second of everything I witnessed,
however, despite always being happy to learn about other faiths, I have no
intention of taking one up. I ditched the faith I was baptised into as a child by my parents and that is where I leave it.

The post office is where I sent my package back home containing my diaries. I waited ages in the queue, behind a man who had about a thousand letters to send. He stood at the counter putting things in envelopes. Nobody was impressed, but he became quite aggressive towards a man who complained, so we all let him get on with it.

The salt lake was magnificent as I mentioned. I suppose in order to get as many people to visit such an attraction there has to be something else to entertain, but does it always have to be so tacky. Saltair Resort just didn’t look right in such a beautiful setting.

Moving from Salt Lake City towards LA proved no exception in the form of Las Vegas. Surrounded by the desert, it is like a blot on the landscape. I only made it into the toilets at the Greyhound station and that was enough. What a disgusting place.

I misread the details of the Trek America trip, which was disappointing as it took in a lot of great places, which I can’t remember now. I quickly forgot about it and made new plans, which would still ensure I got to see a lot of places, even if for a brief moment passing through on the bus.

The Huntington Beach hostel was very much a laid back place but well run despite everything. I remember sitting on the loo for a pee and someone was sitting directly outside the window, thankfully with their back to me, hopefully not peeking. When you gotta go you gotta go, no time for shyness. It was nice to be amongst friendly people happy to accept you into the crowd. One thing I can say about hostels is that everyone has something to share. I felt very hip.

The town was very much like you would see in the movies, I was near to Hollywood after all, with the feeling of a rich kid’s paradise. More of the town to come next time……

It is interesting to go from the intenseness of a big city to the relaxed atmosphere of a small seaside town and see how different people can be.

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Week 23 – 26 June to 2 July

26 June – Will get some post cards tomorrow when I go to Disneyland. Yeah! I’m going to Disneyland.

A very hot, lazy day so not a great deal to report. Feeling a bit more comfortable around the guys hanging out here and the gals, some of them anyway. Had my back well plastered with lotion and hit the beach, pretty early so not crowded.

Did a half hour each side and walked around for another. Fascinating watching the surfers, rather them than me, the water did not look healthy. Would love to drive up to Maxwell’s down by the beach, they have valet parking. Some real old grannies turning up who think they still have it. Thousands of bronzed bodies down main street, I strolled by in cossie and shorts so felt well cool.

Nobody doing much at the hostel, just hanging. The whole area is such a wild place, the atmosphere is alive, hard to believe that just up the road is L.A. city.

Went out for another walk to check out the bus stop for tomorrow, too hot to sit and read so came back. Still hoards of people heading for the beach. The USA lost their game in the world cup, but they do get through to the next round, flook, big flook. Could have stayed on the beach for longer but didn’t want to frazzle. Been reading a book about Michael Landon, only two days and nearly finished it. Do not like the format of the literature but it makes interesting reading, he really had a shit life.

Watched a movie tonight and that was Sunday. Did not know anybody’s name in the crowd but felt good to be in the bunch. Nothing to do here but veg, unless you can travel out. Seem to be a lot of amusement parks about, and Hollywood, would like to visit there just to say I did it.

27 June – (writing this on the 28th) – Well, what can I say about the day, a dream come true. Was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 07:20 hrs bus. After a little disorientation I was on the monorail, day passport in hand, for the journey into Disneyland.

Would loved to have been able to purchase a three day pass, could easily go back, so hope I win the 40th anniversary celebration invitation for next year. A complimentary guidebook enabled me to plan the day successfully. The drop off point was ‘Tomorrowland’ . Got straight into an already long queue to ‘ Space Mountain’, had no idea what to expect. The heat was increasing. Launched into outer-space I was glad not to be able to see the inner construction of the ride. The interwoven track was amazing, zig zagging us through the stars at exhilarating speed. Quite a mind blowing start to the day. I still have some bottle left. The Autopia car drive was unexciting, driving around a circuit to nowhere. Decided a couple of attractions at each site would enable me to get around it all. Purchased a much needed sun visor, my hat was inappropriate. Took the sky ride through the Matterhorn Bob Sleigh ride into ‘Fantasy Land’, one of my favourite spots. Here you meet, Snow White, Pinnochio, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, all magical things. Flew with Dumbo and spun on the tea cups. Turrets and castles framed the area. At this point I was hungry and hot so dived into the pizza place for lunch. Glad for the many water fountains available around the park. Everything consumable was so expensive, but the Americans just shovel it in like there is no tomorrow. Will visit to Fantasy Land later on as well. Made it to Toon Town at 12:45 hrs according to the, ‘It’s a Small, Small World’, ornamental clock. Toon Town was probably my favourite place of all, so wacky. The Jolly Trolley wobbled along the streets flagged by the cartoon houses. A colourful, fun image town. Joined the Queue to the latest Disney attraction, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. Once inside these attractions and out of the heat, the queue is always so long as it was outside. A brilliant ride all the way from the queue to the end. You walk through a Roger Rabbit set with voice overs and eventually hop into a car. The car spins around the set, especially in spin street. A zany ride with excellent effects, I just laughed the whole time as things flashed before my eyes, right out of the exit hole, (a clever invention). The Disney characters were out in force in their home town, Goofey (being goofey), Pluto, Roger, Chip and Dale, Donald. So sweet to see some of the tiny tots reactions as they came face to face. The characters are all fun loving, hugs and kisses. Would hate to wear all of that in this heat. Minnie was not in

so went next door to Mickey’s house. Such a big place he has got, very tidy too. All objects are so animated it makes you feel like you are in a cartoon strip. He was out the back in his filming studio dressing room. A small group at a time are ushered in to meet him, so silly, you become partially dumbstruck at being in the presence of Mickey Mouse.

You really have to believe that it is real and not make believe. The only way to have fun here is to join in with the rest of them, be a big kid. Hung around for a while for Minnie’s arrival, I was in the queue by then. She greeted her guests in the front room, just time for a photo call, just for Amy.

Things to play around with in this house, not as big as Mickey’s. Walked past Daisy’s Diner, Goofey’s house,

back through Fantasy to Frontier Land, Pioneer Days, ranches and rafting. Sailed around the Rivers of America on Mark Twain’s paddle steamer, which takes you through various aspects of early American life and wildlife. Catch the bear scratching itself against a tree. The port overlooks New Orleans Square, a totally different world. Beautiful houses and unique stores and exclusive restaurants, my kind of place. The shade in this area is much needed. Would love to have had the cash to buy a decent souvenir, settled for my thimble and patch and my memories. Headed back to the Runaway Train, nearly lost my hat here. Such speed through the hills and caves. So many of these high speed coaster rides, you get tired of them after a while. ‘Critter Land’ next, hillbilly bears. They have the log ride here, but have decided I don’t like these anymore. Saw a theatre presentation of the bears that live here. Loved the talking trophy heads on the wall.

Adventure land was not so interesting to me, bazaars and tree houses. Sadly the Indiana Jones ride is not open until next year. Had a snack and a rest, decided to hang around for the parade and fireworks. You forget how much that Disney has done, I would have been happy to stay with the better known characters all day; that is Disney to me. Bought my healthy chocolate bar supper and found a good spot for the parade eventually. But not before I have travelled through Pinnochio’s world and rode through Toon Town on the Jolly Trolley. Did not want to risk having to queue for anything else. Had a prime spot for the parade, on the floor but at least I was in the front. At 21:00 hrs the extravaganza began, amazingly I was still alert after twelve hours.

A half hour parade of glittering lights of character, plus Mickey and the gang too amongst them. Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Pete’s Dragon,

the cutest little bugs. A magical display, you have to be there to get the atmosphere. Running out of time I wondered whether I would get to see the fireworks. Thankfully I saw most of them, to the tune of ‘When you wish upon a star’, behind the Sleeping Beauty castle.

Camera film finished I made the dash to the monorail, still with the music all around me, quite dramatic. Made each bus just in time and got home earlier than expected, got in without hassle. Will never, ever forget the day. I spent the whole time with a smile on my face, laughing openly, loving every minute of the magical land. One of my best days to date. Please let the photos come out.

28 June – (Now to today) – Not much to do today, Had a lie in until 08:30 hrs. Sat outside and wrote the postcards, would love to see my brother’s face when he gets it, should have phoned him yesterday. Wandered to the post office to get them off, the cards that is, and went to the pier to finish reading my book; Was not in the mood for sand everywhere. Whilst enjoying the sun a couple of girls came up with a questionnaire, so I invited them to question me. We started off with sport, soccer to be exact. How the conversation got on to religion I will never know, but this is what they were about. A crusading sect from Colorado, very cunning approach. Don’t know what it is about me, but I always attract these people. I am beginning to think that my trip has been a crusade of my own, to convert me into a born again Christian. They wanted me to sit and say a prayer with them to let god in to my life or rather Jesus. I declined and came away with a booklet instead. If I want religion I will do it in my own time not by pressurisation on the spot. Read some more and came back before I burned too much. I am finding that I tend to come out in a rash from the heat at the moment. Finished the book, very touching, very sad. Should have had lotion on today. Lazy evening, think a lot of people are going to an opening of some bar, can’t afford it though, after yesterday. They will only get rat arsed anyway. Should read the bible tonight.

29 June – One of my lets walk and get nowhere fast days. Decided on Newport, glad I took the bus, long walk otherwise in the heat. Sunburn is playing up. Got off at Fashion Island, an extravagant, quite exclusive shopping complex. The Hard Rock Café is in the area, somehow managed to miss it on the way back. Indulged in a slice of chocolate cake and fresh juice, a contrasting lunch. Wanted to find the beach so walked, the wrong way. After winding my way down through some very nice houses I happened upon Balboa Island, wasted more time than I intended. Still I did mean to go there. Mainly a marina on the north side, very pretty houses and holiday homes, reminds me of Devon or Cornwall. All of this stretch south of L.A. is resortish and flash, no poor people evident here. Took the ferry over to Balboa, again quite quaint little place. What greets you is a promenade of amusements and cruises, whilst the south side is all beach. Weather was overcast so able to have a pleasant half hour sitting and watching the world go by. Not a very eventful day but I felt happy and free, must be the sea air.

People seem to be having their navels pierced around the hostel, would annoy me no end. Another T.V. night no doubt. Apparently there was a demonstration of dog owners on the beach yesterday, complaining that they are banned from walking their dogs on the beach. So they all did their business, sad people, what do they expect. How would they like it if I went and crapped on their front lawns. What I would do is designate a patch of beach and let them run wild with the dogs and not bother to have the sand cleaned at all, the crap would pile sky high and the owners would soon understand. San Diego looks nice.

30 June – What was the point of today. I walked north on main to see what was abound. Came across a small shopping centre, not a nice place, so had a doughnut and brought a Muffin for tomorrow’s breakfast and came back. Really would have loved to have seen Hollywood, but too risky on the buses. Still overcast first thing. Went back to the hostel, mooched around and went out again. This time purchased a book, a classic, ‘Emma’, by Jane Austin. Sat on the pier reading until the sun came out, my shoulders are still too painful to sit out.

Very weary from the heat, so took a half hour rest. Our room looks empty now that Stephanie is gone. Read some more, sorted my gear for tomorrow, ate tea and packed my bags. The book is so written that it is fairly hard to take it all in. Will be glad to get going tomorrow, so boring here unless you surf or are able to sit in the sun. Martina is in to the final, surprise, surprise. Put away my other book this morning, my passion is not so great. I was thinking today that Kevin will be mad at me for going to India, but I fear that he will never have the courage to go away for any length of time to dash around a country, let alone afford to. I want this for myself, selfish maybe, but I have the energy to do it now, I may be too busy with my career in the future. Now is most important to me at present, hmmm. Think about that one.

1 July – Left Huntington without incident. Somebody puked last night down our landing to the bog, wonderful stench to greet me. Linda, if it was her in the bunk below, kept me awake with her constant snoring, I really get mad when I want to sleep and can’t. Buses got me to the Greyhound Station early so had to stick around, no comforts there to depend upon. Journey was uneventful. Some nice hilly areas coming in to San Diego, gets much more Mexican like the further down you go.

San Diego itself looks ok, nothing special in the bus depot area. Walked the wrong way so had double the journey necessary. I was almost up to the door of the hostel when this guy jumped me. I imagined he was touting for business for the Y.M.C.A., not knowing at that time the hostel was in the same building. However, turns out he was on the bus from L.A. but did not talk to me because I looked tired. Do I look tired? He was just gushing and gushing, planning my next few hours and being a total jerk. I kept walking, think he got the message, some people like to catch you unawares. Forgot to do the Flagstaff ticket.

First thing I did was to get all of my washing out of the way. The laundry is part of the complex of the building and fairly cheap. The lobby here is very nice, reception desks for the Y.M.C.A. and hostel, barbers shop, café. Hostel is ok, mattresses a different story, at least we have our own showers and loo. A key operates the elevator to our floor, very security conscious. The Y.M.C.A. looks very military, however, we are well situated. I am tired tonight so may be an early night. ‘Emma’ is coming along nicely. Only problem in the kitchen, no hobs, microwave is the best they could come up with.

2 July – Had a wonderful time at the Greyhound Station this morning, the ticket queue was already out of the door when I got there so resisted taking my purse out of my bag until I was inside. Don’t know why, there is just as much chance of crime inside as out. Once inside the entertainment began. One coloured guy grabbed another, from behind, around the neck, in what seemed to be a playful banter. However, the victim was soon knocked to the ground and the attacker was joined by another, whence they proceeded to kick the shit out of the victim. The crowd remained calm, apart from a stupid Mexican in front of me, after all the fight had nothing to do with us. A security guard turned up minutes later to break the brawl and that was it, exciting stuff. Tempers were now beginning to rise is the queue, there only appeared to be one window open, very Greyhound America. Eventually got to the window, my ticket, I thought, was not as urgent as some but I refused to get out of line. Looks like 20 days advance was not enough. Right up until 27/7 the buses from Flagstaff, east, are booked solid on the cheap deals. No way was I paying another $179 to go back. So I have a wonderful 2½ weeks to kill in Flagstaff. Think I will take advantage of the work for my board deal.

Stopped off at the hostel and headed for the water’s edge. Strolled pass the ‘Star of India’ tall ship, now a museum, the harbour cruise booths and ended up on the boardwalk. This is a very naval based area. Stopped off for a snack, not necessary really, and stumbled into Sea port Village. Glad I did, such a nice place, full of atmosphere with live music. Reminded me of Disneyland, so quaint with exclusive shops and eateries. Quite a Covent Garden with the street entertainers. On the way down to the Enbarcadero Marina Park I was distracted by a guy getting a crowd together for this magic show. Craig Stone was his name and he was such a funny guy, even before his show started. Quick witted and very visual, eat your heart out Paul Daniels, this guy deserves the big time.

There was yet more to the village, so after visiting some rather sad toilets I wandered around the rest and sat to read for a while. The hostel does not appear to be doing anything for 4th July, so really stuck now, not bothered about the daytime, just the evening. A bit better evening than last. Have learned that it doesn’t take much to spark tempers around this city, have heard a lot of mouthing off today. Martina did not win Wimbledon, but I guess she must have gone out on a high. I feel on a high at the moment despite my travel problems, the sun does us all good.

Current day thoughts

So I felt frumpy in the town of Huntington Beach but hip in the hostel. It was like two worlds colliding. I clearly remedied that by wearing my swimming costume into the town so as not to stick out like a sore thumb. I’m sure nobody noticed me anyway. With the exception of Disney I had little choice but to chill most of the time. My brain was very active which can make chilling difficult because you just want to be out doing something and not just sitting around. The sunny weather got me out and about, but there is only so much sun a person can take. My skin was tanning (burning) and my hair was bleached out by the sun. I was glad to have caught the reading bug, I never did so much reading in my life. I am not really much of a shopper, I buy if I need and that is that, not really a materialistic person, but it was nice to look around, and there was so much to look around, and see what could be if I were wealthy. Note: The wealth of a person in not measured by how much money they have.

Disneyland – can’t really say much more than I did already. Loved it, loved it, loved it. A tick off the bucket list.

I didn’t appear to be eating a very healthy diet – doughnuts and muffins for breakfast! Was I becoming too American and letting my standards drop? Whatever, I still had pulling power, even if some of the guys were not up to my standard. Perhaps all that sugar was making me look tired.

I got to witness my first every fist fight, and in the wonderful setting of a Greyhound bus station too. I remember the poor victim already had some kind of bandage on, so was obviously a glutton for punishment. I also still hear the Mexican woman shouting her mouth off at them for fighting. The rest of us just watched and did nothing, perhaps out of fear. I’m not sure what I could have done anyway, except for run away and I wasn’t about to lose my place in the line.

San Diego was starting to look like a better place than the Greyhound station might have suggested. You just can’t say Y.M.C.A without singing it, can you, and with actions too.

Craig Stone still seems to be going strong and good for him.

I was living in the present, which is a good thing, but I still look to things in the future, always have a goal to aim for, something to live for. It is not selfish to want to experience life, we are here for such a short time and should squeeze as much out as we can. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

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Week 24: 3 July to 9 July

3 July – Got the hair up out of the way, did not realise how long it has gotten.

Managed to get to Balboa Park, via Jack In The Box, after I had watched Pete Sampras win Wimbledon, easily. Not quite how I expected the park to be. Museums adorn the south west corner, not the type to lure me, aviation and motor. It is not a park with grassy areas, but more of pathways to wander and buildings to happen upon. Found the Spreckels Organ,

a quintet were playing a spot there, not such a good place in the heat, all open unless you can get to sit around the edge. Will come back later when the organ recital is on. The house of hospitality provided shady cloisters
to walk, alongside a courtyard. From my map looks like a fair bit of the
park I missed. Not really in the mood for going into museums, prefer the
visual/outdoor side to touristing at the moment. Down the pedestrian mall, past street acts and, I noticed, palm readings and tarots, very tempting. Lots of palm trees and botanicals to make a tropical atmosphere and a photogenic one. Just across the road, over a bridge were the formal (and only noticeable) gardens. Beautiful roses at one end and a cactus desert at the other.

I had so many things I wanted to do in a short space of time, but I gave in and went to the tarot lady, haggled her down to $5, she fancied her talents to be worth more. She was very accurate; or rather I was in card selection. I was predicted as new job, new move, home building, marriage soon, good health. (The most encouraging part though did not push it), she said to go ahead with a check-up. Food for thought – no meat, bump up on vitamins and B’s. There is also a back stabber in the midst, not sure who, could be back home, but it is they who will have the last laugh. My knight is helping me to proceed, for us both I think. Good omens good decision.

The zoo was on a cheapy $6 from 3 to 11pm. Got me a big drink and went to the Spreckels Organ. Not forgetting the Spanish village art centre and cool jazz band. Had to dive in to the shade for the final ½ hour. A few jolly tunes that’s all, nothing special. Couldn’t bring myself to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, no reason to.

Walked back, not so far. The scroungers about town these days have a new technique in their objective to obtain money. They try to strike up conversation and get you to like them, to make you feel good about giving cash, however, I nipped him in the bud and he walked on. I have to spend my money on replacement milk. My dorm mate was cream cheeseless
also this morning.

It is Tom Cruise’s birthday today, celebrated by Tom Cruise movies on T.V. You just have to see these adverts, so funny, especially the one on plastic. Struck me that I haven’t been writing anything too deep and meaningful of late, must get back into that instead of just plain facts.

4 July – Just like a bank holiday at home, except there will be fireworks tonight. Had a later start than anticipated, due to our strange Australian psychologist messing around, as usual. She gave me a book to read, Byron, Shelley and a host of other poets, should read more poetry but preferring straight literature at the moment.

Wore a short sleeved blouse, big mistake, and headed for Sea Port Village. Got bored very quickly as nothing going on until afternoon, so, decided to stroll along to the Old Town part of San Diego. Surprise, surprise, I took the wrong road and ended up walking miles along the harbour-side, past the airport to Harbour Island. All I wanted to do was find a café to have a drink but all there seemed to be were hotels, posh restaurants and nothing else. Eventually came to a dead end, this isn’t how it was supposed to be today. I was going to sit and listen to music and read my book. Took another road, which I thought would go back in to town, fortunately there was a café along here, however, another dead end. So had to walk all the way back again, a waste of time and my arms were burned up again, I am so stupid at times. T shirts from now on until I am certain it has cleared up, who cares about a tan, I think I will try to preserve my good complexion instead. Tired from walking I still continued back to the village, but got bored again, besides my arms were hurting. They have a left handed shop here, which basically takes the piss out of us, I hate people who are ignorant of a good thing. It also annoys me that people make such a big deal of it all, what the hell would right handed people know about it.

Came back to nurse my wounds, the sun burn that is, and change before going out tonight. Was very chilly tonight, may have had something to do with my sunburn. Got some French fries and took a place along the water’s edge, pretty big crowd about. As coincidence would have it a girl, Lorraine, from the hostel was alongside me so had a conversationalist whilst waiting. She is very intelligent on political issues, bit of an activist if you ask me. The fireworks were ok, nothing spectacular, source of a major disappointment of the whole day for me. I imagined everywhere in America to be all street parades, flags and ticker tape. They do have that in some places, but San Diego not. I was really looking forward to today as well. There were a second lot of explosions, which were better, but by then had moved from the water’s edge so missed some of them. We went to the Upstart Crow
for a coffee, at least I had one. Makes a change to have somebody intelligent
to talk to, even if I cannot return it in the same capacity. We are going down
to Mexico on Wednesday, so should be good fun. Not so sleepy tonight, not sure of what to do tomorrow, must write to Kevin.

5 July – Not much of a day. Got some cream for my sunburn, has come out in blisters today. Ouch!

Spent most part of the morning wandering the Horton Plaza mall, quite nicely planned out. Had a mega lunch, cheap too and wrote to Kevin to let him know what was going on. Trying desperately to keep out of the sun, hope I do not get paranoid about it. Could have taken in a movie, maybe later in the week, so many to choose from. The day was young so I opened my map and thought I would go to the Old Town, walking, naturally. Got to a point on the map and was totally confused, can’t be that far away. Stopped off at a garage and was told it was another five miles away, so shelved the idea until another day.

Came back to the hostel and stayed here, had the tiny tots jumping all over me, not good for the arms, so bailed out quick. Lots of us gathered for a movie downstairs, The fugitive, so took up most of the evening. Full dorm today, hope our sleepless friend stays put, she is a real pain, feel sorry for Zoe. Not sure about tomorrow, a little apprehensive, am sure we will be Ok. No deep thoughts.

6 July – A mega, more interesting day. Caught the trolley down to Mexico with Lorraine. Weather cool and not too many people around. Had no hassle getting in to Mexico, nobody there to check us in. Have no idea why the city of Tijuana is the most visited in the world, it is hardly an-interesting place to see, just shops and restaurants and men trying to get you in to their taxis and street vendors showing their wares up your nose.

Walked the length of the main shopping street, stopping to do the window
shopping. Found a bar for a drink, Lorraine was on the Margaritas, whilst I
stuck to juice. She paid as well, said it was her treat for me going with her. I was coming down anyway. Discovered she is 42 years old, has 2 kids, one 20 years old, one 14 years old, I thought she was only in her 20’s herself, well shocked. We went for a little walk to the tourist centre and got a better map, even if it was in Spanish. Across the road was about the only attraction in Tijuana, no parks or anything, a wax museum, few statues and sports arenas. The cultural centre held some interesting pictures and artefacts which take you through the history leading to Mexican independence.

After that we were hungry so wandered back to the Hard Rock Café, my first, Lorraine’s many timeth. Had burger and fries and to my embarrassment, was Lorraine’s treat again, she has some money to burn.

A guy there told us of a place to see not far away, called the Mexitlan, so off we went. Not sure of what to expect we went in and up to the roof, looks more like an entertainment centre. However, it was like a model village, only the exhibits were of significant buildings in various parts of Mexico. Some beautiful architecture too of Aztec right through to modern day. Makes you want to take off and see the country. My favourite was of the World Cup Soccer Stadium, brilliant stuff. We spent nearly two hours walking around, it was very interesting.

Time to go after that, walking back across to the border was a different case this time, the beggars were out in force, tiny kids with plastic cups expecting money from the rich tourists. I gave once, it was all I could
afford. However, Lorraine came armed with change, she gave to almost everyone, very generous lady, very wised up on things. The only problem with giving in to them is that they grow up with the impression that they have to beg for things and does not encourage improvement in their lives. The parents exploit their children so much they can have no hope for their future. Very sad.

Moved in to Lorraine’s room tonight, will be able to get some sleep and not suffer interruptions throughout the night from the psychologist.

7 July – Got going by midday, just. We went to La Jolla on the bus.

La Jolla is a very exclusive beach resort, but the beaches are more secluded and the water clear as crystal, lots of snorkelling going on. The pelicans are strange here, if in fact they are pelicans, they are brownish in colour with much smaller heads and bills. Some seals basking on the rocks, quite a change of scenery. We looked around some very nice shops and Lorraine spent a lot of money, mainly on other people. We ate lunch in the Hard Rock Café again, not so good as the food yesterday, but had desert today. Was very tired by the end of the afternoon so glad to get on the bus home. Will just slouch as usual tonight. My shoulders are improving, the blistering has dried up and looks good underneath.

8 July – Got my act together early this morning. Decided on the zoo, but wanted to wait until 17:00 hrs to get in on the cheap rate. However, took the bus to Balboa Park by noon, so had a few hours to kill. The weather was not so hot and it was fairly overcast making it pleasant. I read a few chapters of my book in various parts of the park, looked at buildings I had not seen previously and ate lunch very slowly so as to kill time. Surprisingly
it went quickly and in no time I was at the Zoo.

I guess the zoo is well laid out and, in some cases, they have done good things with the endangered species, but I could not help but look at the sad faces of the animals and birds and feel sorry for them. Nothing to do except loll about all day, in confined space. They all looked tired and drawn and meaningless. The brown bear did a brain washed dance, up and down his pen, the polar bear must surely be too hot. The only ones who it does not matter so much to are the koalas, they do nothing anyway. The older ones of each species had that captivated look about them, whereas the babies brought happiness, they know no different, if only they could be freed. They would not survive on their own because they do not know how to feed themselves. There are some animals that you like to see up close because you will probably never see them in the wild, but you cannot get the true benefit from seeing them caged up like this. It is not how the animals really are; their behaviour is adapted and not natural. I did not spend long looking at each animal. I could not, it was too depressing. Do not know why I went, I do not like zoos anymore, I find them uninteresting. It is said that the zoo is world famous, I had not heard of it before, perhaps the treatment and research on animals is one of the reasons. Spent nearly three hours walking around, that was enough for me, did not see it all. Wanted to get back before dark. Must phone the motel tomorrow, will want to pack in the
morning. Long live wild life, in the wild.

9 July – My last day in San Diego, left my luggage in the room so no hassles
there. One of my main objectives today was to get my thimble. Had a rummage through those at the Holiday Inn, again, but they were not very good quality. Glad I did leave them because I found a nice one in the nautical gift shop at Seaport Village. This is where I spent most of the day, not such a warm one as it has been of late. I packed my lunch, prepared over breakfast in the kitchen, hounded by a much nauseating English lady, who likes travelling Greyhound. Was glad when she finally adopted our Australian friend, you could sense his despair, most amusing. My arms are peeling quite rapidly now, however, still very sore.

Lots of side shows on at the village, the most charming being at the bandstand. Whilst the jazz tones of Sweet Georgia Brown filled the air, a group of tasselled Charleston ladies danced along. An elderly group, however, charmingly elegant in their attire, with parasols. I felt it necessary to treat myself to ice cream after that.

Hanging around for 22:00 hrs was a bit of a chore, especially as Lorraine went out at 17:00 hrs for a couple of hours. Brazil v Holland was on, in Spanish. Brazil won. This followed by endless mind boggling drivel was my entertainment.

Finally at 20:30 hrs I walked to the station and the bus was ½ hour off schedule, it broke down, so we off loaded to another. I had to make sure that I beat my horrible co passenger, Tom, to the window seat, I hope he has a really bad night.

There is something about the sea that draws. You can sit and ponder, or do just about anything whilst by the water’s edge and feel the tranquillity. Nobody wonders about you when looking out to sea, it is one of those acceptable pastimes.

Current day thoughts

I know I said that there would be photos soon, but my plan went a bit pear shaped. No scanners available to do the job. Soon though, promise.

Jack In The Box is a fast food chain. I really can’t have had a care in the world.

I do like to have my cards or my palm read every so often just to make sure everything is tickety-boo. She was good value at $5.

I do enjoy a good advert, sometimes more than the programmes, although these days I find the advertisers can spoil a song forever. It is a good advertising ploy. Have you ever listened to a popular song on the radio but find you can no longer concentrate on the song because it has appeared in an advert and you now only think about the product being advertised.

I had great expectations for the 4th July, which never came to fruition, very low key to what I imagined. I did however get to meet a nice fellow
hosteller, and got to stay in a better room for no extra cost. It was great to have someone to visit places with.

I cannot begin to tell you how bad the sunburn was on my shoulders, blisters coming out on top of blisters bad, probably second degree. I went to the pharmacy and asked the chap for something for my sunburn and couldn’t quite believe it when he saw how bad it was. He sold me a cooling gel that had an anaesthetic element to it to help with the pain. Great stuff that I have never seen since. I had to dress my burns every day and whilst it was a painful experience I just got on with things and they did heal well. I have to say though that nowadays these are the spots that always gets burned up the quickest and I have never learned my lesson in this respect.
I need to keep telling myself that it just isn’t worth it for a tan.

I am left handed and if anyone has a problem with that, tough.

It was nice on the occasions when everyone in the hostels got together to do something, even if only to watch a movie, it created a bond and a belonging.

I went to Mexico, just for the day, which is a bit sad because I really would like to see more of Mexico, and it was so easy to get across the border. I understand it is less easy going from Mexico back into the USA, but I never experienced any of it. An American tourist obviously doesn’t attract as much attention as a desperate Mexican trying to get into the USA. It was fun but I can’t say I felt like I was in Mexico, perhaps because Tijuana is so close to the border it has built up quickly and looks like an ordinary town.
I don’t know how it should feel to be in Mexico. I watch too many movies and have a romantic image of how I want it to be.

A different type of poverty experienced here, so easy for me to judge and I shouldn’t, because I don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes or what is going on in their country.  I tend to hold back a bit with regards to overseas charity giving because of this.

I don’t remember La Jolla at all; I think my memories intermingle with those in Tijuana so I haven’t got the full picture.

I appreciate that the larger zoos do a lot in terms of conservation work and sometimes are able to release animals born in captivity back to the wild, but I am still not a fan.

So that was San Diego, quite a jolly city with plenty of entertainment. I appeared to have lost my map reading skills in San Diego right from the start. I did at least strengthen my legs from all the walking.

Tom was a creepy man who wanted to sit by the window on the bus. I was by the window and I wasn’t moving. I met a lot of weird people on the Greyhound buses.

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Week 25: 10 July to 16 July

10 July – In Phoenix now awaiting my next bus, have spotted the English lady across the way so must avoid her. The rest rooms are disgusting, so typical of Greyhound. Had an uncomfortable night, not now looking forward to my 3 night haul across country, could do with some pills to
knock me out. Had a horrid breakfast, full of additives, yeuk!

Was still tired on the next bus, but was in one of those continual drowsy states only, did miss some good scenery. When I came to we were in the wilderness, but it was so lovely, I knew I must be near the Canyon. Flat shrubbed desert that suddenly disappeared from under your nose, undulating hills o’er miles and miles of endless horizon. I did notice the difference in the heat though, but Arizona does look like a good state to live in. Very laid back, beautiful and friendly.  So amazing how a part of the country can change from that just a few hours away, in such a vast way too. I think some of these large countries should create countries within in preference to calling them states or provinces. Just like staring out to sea, the desert type areas mesmerise me into a state of peace and enlightenment.

We reached Flagstaff soon enough and actually found a good clean depot, from which I was collected by a guy from the hostel. The Motel Dubeau is a typical hostel type place, seems to be full of English or rather British persons, either running or staying.

Had a well needed shower before hitting the town, but not before I had met each female in our dorm, Niki, Fiona and now Mary, all really nice people and all from U.K. We all seem to be going on the Canyon tour tomorrow, no 2/3 day ones however. I may go up to Lake Powell for a while, the area takes in other National Parks. No problem with me working here if I want to.

Did a round trip of Flagstaff, through the university grounds to the mall and back to Safeway for some goodies. Had dinner from the café, was too tired to cook, no room anyway. This hostel seems so much better than Huntington, more normal types of all ages, I really like it and get on with everyone. Will like vegging out here for a while, a good recommendation. Watching some slides on the Canyon later.

11 July – Some were bothered with the trains last night, but I had a pretty good sleep, all ready for our trek today.

What can I say about today, it was pretty amazing. We had a small group and we all got on well and really enjoyed ourselves. These tours all include stop offs at souvenir stores, but we mainly needed food supplies. I bought a hat to look touristy. I did not want to get stuck in a sun trap anywhere unprepared. Our first stop was at the visitor centre to see a slide show, it was basically an advertising campaign for tourists, our slide show last night was better. The Canyon is in a national park so have fees to pay to get in. It seems that in early 1800’s the wonderful pioneers and explorers tried to excavate the minerals etc that they discovered, however, because of the sheer depth and severity of the Canyon, nearly one mile deep, they had to abandon any such ideas. Thankfully so, because now all is protected to its natural state and only trails intrude. The human activity in the Canyon itself provides minimal concern, but I would say that only self-respecting human beings attempt to go down very far. The Canyon is 270 odd miles long and we only touched the tip of the ice berg along the south rim. In fact most of what we saw was the same thing only at different angles. Could and would keep going back, if I had a car I would travel further along to see other parts. They say that out of the 4/5 million visitors each year the average person only stays twenty minutes, crazy unimpressive people. I was pleased with the lack of touristiness about the area, I guess further along would be less so than at this access point. You do not need to hype up this 1/7
wonder of the world. I wish we had taken our group photo at the beginning, we were all dumb struck at our first sighting of the Canyon, mouths open.

You cannot describe what it is you are witnessing, it is like looking at a backdrop or a painting, it just isn’t real. Awesome is a good word to describe it. I have seen a lot of great things and it would be unfair to pick out one as the best because everything is beautiful in its own way, however, the Grand Canyon is just gobsmacking. You can spend hours staring at different bits, and making things out of them. One view is like an ancient city of stone, turrets, pyramids, caves, step like structures, simply brilliant. One thing I noticed were the layers of rock, so perfectly evident, it was like looking into the centre of the earth and seeing every age of the earth unfurled to its present day, rather like counting the rings on a tree. Sandstone, shale and limestone form the basis today, so very soft flaky rocks, pretty scary too. Very wary, hairy, scary, in fact. We stood in awe looking out but were advised not to take a lot of piccies at this stage as better views were to come in better lighting. I think we must have been at Yaki point or very close. Next was the lunch stop, we hit a trail down to about 2 tenths of a mile to a secluded rock under a tree and munched on our picnic, hounded by bugs. So, so peaceful, nobody around except us.

You do not need to talk, the Canyon speaks for itself, you just sit and look out and think your own private thoughts. I kept having recurring thoughts of jumping off the edge, just like my dream of a few years back. I know if I got too close to the edge for a photo, I would topple over. I was a little scared to be honest, our trail down was a bit hairy in parts, the loose rocks underfoot could take you at any time. My thigh muscles ached, so by the time we had descended, was told I needed water. Did not help tremendously. We lunched for nearly an hour so a good rest. The legs did not hurt on the way back up, but the altitude got both myself and Miriam. We both had to stop on several occasions to rest, she was worse than me with dizzy spells. I would dearly love to go right to the bottom but I would never get out again successfully and I certainly would not go on one of those mule trips down, too risky. I will send Frank the brochures and he can make up his own mind. It really can knock you for six, even fit people who hike a lot. Miriam wants to white water raft for three days, she must have some money to spend. It would be such a shame to think that today may be the only day I get to see the Canyon.  After making sure we were all fit we drove along to the Tusayan Ruins and museum, site of an ancient Indian Camp, little known about the civilisation so most facts are speculation. The Navajo also dwelt in this area. And so to the furthest point, our guide’s favourite spot, away from the masses, think it was a desert view because we could see the Cedar Mountain.

The sun was going down by now and gave a
different perception on the Canyon and some brilliant views, this was our main photo opportunity.

Went closer to the edge this time. Just incredible how the Canyon meanders along the Colorado River route. Miles and miles of turrets, red close up and black as they fade in to the distance. The photos could never do the area justice. We stayed here for about an hour absorbing the atmosphere, looking, chatting, admiring, none of us could take it in. We stopped off at a few points on the way back, a lot of what we saw was the same just from a different angle, so did get a bit tiresome after a while. It is just the vastness of the whole thing that captures you.

Had a good meal back at the hostel. I had to get out of the smoky atmosphere after a while, was going back but got trapped in my diary,
was midnight before I knew it.

12 July – Writing this on the 13th, I desperately need a rest day. My legs feel awful from the hike yesterday and we hardly did any. I think the tension from walking so close to the edge did not help.

We had a small group again today for Sedona. Peter, a German, was our tour guide. A very quiet guy and not so informative as Jody yesterday.
When this guy says hike, you hike, and he does not hang around. Had the usual food supply stop before driving to Oak Creek view point. The area was hotter than at the Canyon, we went south today and they say it is always hotter further down. The view was nice, a canyon covered with pine trees and mountain oak and cactus, with a little winding road running through it, very pretty but not worthy of a picture. We had a brief resume of the area and what to expect, but I cannot remember too much. Next was a view looking down over Sedona, the place where a lot of stars live, very exclusive town out here in rattle snake country.

Some spectacular views of part canyon/mountain type structures, all red rock.  Sugar Loaf Mountain was most prominent and many other mountains that have been turned into various objects. Elephant, coffee pot, snoopy.  Lunch, a nice spot, in the blazing heat, so hard to find any desperately needed shade. We plonked ourselves, Miriam, Nicki and I, under a small tree, forgetting the warning of snakes and scorpions. I would hope I was immune from scorpions due to our connection. We desperately needed our swim, so off we hiked into Oak Creek to slide rock. I am sure there must have been an easier way down, but Peter insisted on us rock climbing and dirtying our clothes and bodies. They should issue a health warning with the trip, or at least life insurance cover. We couldn’t get our clothes off fast enough. Some were straight in but I did a bit of basking first.

The rocks in the river are covered in algae and so provide a perfect slide, just like a water slide at a pool. You lie back and let the current take you, it took me a little too quick and I turned over and I went sailing, legs and arms flagging every which way, until I corrected myself and I glided swiftly down to the creek, where Peter was waiting to give me a hand up. Good fun. I did it once, some two or three and some none. Quite happy to lounge around after that and just lie in a side stream. On the way back we stopped at another point for a swim. To get there we had a shorter hike, but was still horrendous. More shady at the water. I could not be fagged to get wet again for the sake of 10 minutes. Miriam slipped up on the way back, not hurt, but I think it made Peter sit up and take notice that not all are like him.

I was so knackered by the time I got back, ate at Macey’s with Miriam. Yesterday’s guide, Jody, was there, so he and his lady joined us. In the evening, Nicki, Miriam and I went up to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. They give a little talk about the current planet of interest, tonight it was Jupiter and the M5 Cluster. Too above me to all sink in. However, did learn something about shooting stars, they are only the size of a thumb-nail and are fragments of stars that have reached the earth’s atmosphere. The
light given off is the disintegration of them, how you get that much light
beats me, but there you go. Our next treat was to take a look through the 24 inch Clark Refracting Telescope, 98 years old, so I guess we were honoured.
We just missed getting to see Jupiter, the girl spent ages readjusting the 7 ton telescope to the M5 Cluster, wish she had left it, the Cluster was so
small it was hardly worth it. Something different anyway and a first. Flagstaff does look good at night.

13 July – Miriam and I set off with good intentions of doing a round trip. Walnut Canyon, Jerome, Montezuma’s Castle and Wupatki. Walnut
Canyon was only a few miles away. The Sinagna tribes inhabited this canyon, they lived in caves formed in the canyon side and eventually developed them in to walled houses. How they managed to successfully ascend and descend beats me, maybe the paths were more defined then, AD600, or people were not so wimpish. Average age 20 to 30 years of life, I would be an old lady now.  Not such a trawl, but very hot so equally exhausting. My legs are still killing me. I need to take a rest, I look like shit, the past few days have been a rush in my itinerary, should have eased myself in to it gently. The Oak Creek runs dry now so guess that is why they moved on. The trail around was 185 down, paved, stepped and railed. Could walk around the house, or rather stoop around them, some were being repaired.

Interesting little area, I think Arizona must have some of the most
extensive historical sites of pre-pioneer times in the whole of America. Saw a beautiful Humming Bird, my first of the wild. I admire anyone who can take a decent photo of one in flight, they are so swift, if you blink you miss them. The Park Rangers advised us on how long it would take to do the round trip so it seemed then that it would be unlikely we could do it all. So we selected Jerome, because it would be good to see a ghost town. Getting there was horrendous, it was so hot you would not believe, all we had was window air conditioning. Miriam is not the best of drivers and she drives fast so I was sweating even more. Miles and miles of open desert land took its toll on the car and it overheated on the upward hill, we were only ten miles away. A guy stopped to check all was ok and gave his manly advice. The remainder of the trip was downhill so soon cooled the car down. The road in to Jerome is very winding, but provides the most brilliant views, would not have missed this. We got there near closing time and no trace
of a ghost town. Nice exclusive shops and very quiet peaceful town, where everyone knows everyone else. An artist’s dwelling area. Most of the houses have been restored and are lived in now, some buildings left alone and deserted, but was disappointing. Gave the impression though of not being a hustle bustle place. There is a tour of the mine, which they indicate has a ghost town area, but we never got on it.

Everyone really hippy here and very laid back. We walked up to the church, a Catholic one by the look of things. A little OTT ornate wise, gaudy colours and too many Virgin Mary and Christ statues. Paper flowers and wax-work priests.  A once thriving copper mining town was wiped out when fires swept the mines and the land shifted, bringing houses down. It was pretty deserted until 20 years ago, is now a national historic landmark. The journey home was less traumatic, we were tired so quiet, well I was anyway, daydreaming.

Did not do much this evening. Fairly good day, if a little hectic and tiring. Will start work tomorrow and veg out for a few days to get the sparkle back.

14 July – A semi-quiet day. Started work at 11am, got the room cleaning
job with Ruth and Ben. I did the bathrooms, nice one. My new room is a
pit, not sure it is a good move, still an hour and a quarter‘s work for free
breakfast and board is worth it I suppose.

Wandered in to town, bought my postcards and had a drink, so hot. Even a short walk has tired me out, legs are better today. Sorted the toga out after
helping blow up the balloons for the party. Was 7pm before I knew it and Miriam was here. We went to Perkins, a nice non-fast-food place. Our waitress was very apologetic at keeping us waiting, she gave us our dessert for free, nice of her, but not really necessary. Wish I had stayed out longer talking with Miriam, or at least invited her in to the party. I did not enjoy as much as I wanted. I couldn’t stand the smoke, so I retired. Some people in our room, so talked to them for a while and they disappeared. Mary was nowhere to be seen. Will do my work and potter around here and there instead of hanging around all day. Everyone is nice, but to know people sober is one thing, drunk is another.

Tried to write to people about the Canyon today, but how do you describe the indescribable. A strange day, feel as though I made a back-slide in my social progress. Decided I like my own people to party with or at least those on a similar level as me.

Miriam went to Montezuma today and to Sedona, would have been nice to go. Work was over so soon, but too late to venture anywhere. Not certain how I will get on from now on.

15 July – A lot of heavy heads this morning and gossip in our room, I ignored it, but did amuse me.

Had a wander around the old town before work at 11am. Got a shit job today, a full three hours’ worth. I had to do a good spring clean job in the T.V. room, both common bathrooms and the laundry room. Gave me a blister so must be out of practice, was glad to have finished by 2pm.

To my surprise, Miriam was still around. About 2 miles out she had car trouble so came back. Some trouble, $600’s worth, made her literally cry. So after work we sat through her laundry and then set off in a mended car to Wupatki, it was too late for her to drive to Salt Lake. Wupatki is in the wilderness and consists of a series of ruins on Pueblo Indians, around 12th
Century. Saw Nalakihu, Citadel, Lonaki and Wupatki. Wupatki being the largest complex. Each building seemed to be set in prominent places, plenty of farming land around them. The brickwork was very neat, some houses two storey with many rooms. Whole families stuck together so many houses grew out. They looked so good against the setting sun. Brilliant red brick against shadow and the green shrubbery. Had a good view of the painted desert in the background, quite stunning as the sun disappeared behind the hills. Greens and reds turned to purple and blues, very pretty. We went at a good time of day. However, it gets dark quickly out here so wanted to get back on the main road before then. Just made it.

Got supper and hit the decks once back.  Randall was not around so I had nothing to stay up for.

We were the only ones out at Wupatki today, eerie in a way but so very
peaceful and beautiful.

16 July – Another shit day work wise, however, in a good mood.

Wandered the old town and bought some nick-nacks and some feathers, in case I go tonight. Continued to the shopping centre for an ice cream and to check out the cinema.

Seems that there will be a better bunch at the cowboy party, so will go. Glad I did, was a rave, although not as much as the toga’s. John Wayne was here, an amazing look-alike, facial as well as build. He models his life on him too.
Sad but a good gag. He was keen to have his photo taken with most people, squaws in particular, and dishing out Bourbon from his large bottle.

Met some good people tonight, more my sort and had a good dance most of the time. Everyone was so much more mellow, which was probably why I had a better time. Was wary of Peter ‘I can’t keep my hands to myself’ tour guide. Was talking most of the night to a guy from Melbourne, very interesting, doesn’t drink due to medical reasons. Bit of a dare devil. Swam with piranhas, been stalked by cobra type snakes – wild man. Was nice to be able to have a decent conversation for a change. By about 1am most people were
dead, I turned in at 1.30am. Looking forward to the cleaning tomorrow!

Current day thoughts

I think this section really highlights social interaction and how I see others and how I see me. I find social interaction very difficult, most people do if they are honest with themselves. I worry about how I come across to others and whether or not I will fit in. I said I like ‘those on a similar level as
me’ and was referring to the mind-set of a person. I like to think now that I can hold myself in any situation and get on with a diverse range of people and opinions, however I do like to suss people out first before I throw myself into the ring. A big downfall for me, especially at parties, has always been alcohol. I am not a big drinker (yeah right I hear some of you say) but when I do drink I tend to have more than I can cope with if you know what I mean, but not as much nowadays as back in the day. I realise that
getting older has its downfalls in this respect. I am a cheap date now with one drink being enough for the evening. Anyway, once the mouth gets going there can be no stopping and often gives the wrong impression. I spend hours, days sometimes analysing what or why I said certain things. I believe
it comes down to nerves, especially when in the company of strangers. I referred to ‘more normal types’, when perhaps I should just have said, more my type. Normal is whatever is right for you. In hostels the crowds change daily, so you may get on with people one day and then find yourself amongst very different people the next. We are all different and on the whole I was able to mix in well. I just stay away from situations I don’t feel comfortable in.

Working for my keep at The Motel Dubeau was great for a while, saved me a bit. Not nice to clean the rooms though, especially in an independently run hostel with lower standards than say the YHA. I did get moved into the main building though with better accommodation because of it.

I cannot recommend more a trip to see the Grand Canyon, it is phenominal. Put it on your bucket lists. The area has so much to offer in terms of historical sites. Just make sure if you drive around you have decent transport and go out prepared because it really is a desert out there. Glad to
have had Miriam to tag along with as I wouldn’t have seen half as much as I
did, and it was cheaper than a guided tour.

The railroad runs through the centre of Flagstaff with the Santa Fe Southern Railway passing through regularly and they do sound their horn loudly to warn people they are coming.

The John Wayne look alike was a great addition to the cowboys and Indians party and he loved the attention, I guess that was what he was there for.

Two weeks is a long time to spend in one place when you are a backpacker on the move. So much more of Flagstaff to come

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Week 26 – 17 July to 23 July

17 July – World Cup final today, good luck Brazil! Going for a hike with Randall today after the chores. Only an hour and a bit so not bad. A lot of the workers are heading to Vegas for a couple of days so hopefully will not be too demanding on those of us remaining.

After a very long hot drive we ended up at the west clear water creek, just south of Sedona. Started out on the trail and boy what a trail it was too. Not such a steep canyon but steep enough and narrow, some pretty views. Got a bit hairy after a while and we basically came to a dead end so we had a rest for half an hour or so, chatting and enjoying the atmosphere. Found
another route down to the creek. We knew it was down there because we could hear voices. The guys down there were skinny dipping so we discretely made our presence known before getting too far down.
This was the signal to end their day out. Was nice to get into the water, not so deep to swim in. Lazed around for a while drying off and tried to find an alternative route back. Walked along the creek for a lot of the way
rock-hopping but the trail ran out so we waded back across the river to a much more civilised and the correct route to take. Not sure I like hiking like this so much, heat, cacti prickles stuck in me, bush scratches, prefer a straighter route with better views. The solitude is nice, but would not do
something like this on my own. Randall was well equipped for the outdoors so felt confident about the whole thing. The drive back was quicker and I was starving.

Nice atmosphere again this evening. I have to move again tomorrow, in to the house now, must have made it. The scenery is becoming very much samey now so need a change. Brazil won on a penalty shoot-out.

My prickles were up this morning from my Ozzie friend and another Ozzie Sheila, picking holes in everyone else and full of praise for everything Australian. Don’t know why she came away to work if the place means so much to her.

Forgot to mention the other skinny dipper on route, a popular sport in the lesser populated areas. Cute asses!

18 July – No an interesting day today. Had help from Aisha cleaning the
bathrooms. Moved my stuff into a smaller, better room, bathroom not so good.

Had a wander to find some bits and pieces, nice trek through the fast food areas, never got where I wanted to but found what I needed just the same. It actually rained this afternoon, nice and refreshing. Most workers gone to Vegas today so pretty quiet back at the ranch.  Got to the cinema too late, could not be bothered to hang around and the Riordan mansion did not appeal, so came back here and read some literature.

Sharing with another Carol, only spelt Karole, she is very new age and very nice, she bakes good brownies. Finding today much more of a let’s talk day, some more interesting people in, John Wayne is still hanging around. I find people are now asking my advice on things, which is good, makes me feel like a seasoned traveller. Thought a bit more about what else to do whilst here. Phoned Page, they do not do trips to Bryce or Zion, only North rim, Lake Powell and Sedona, so will do a day trip up to Lake Powell and hitch up to the Canyon and take another tour there to the west rim.
Will do the Gump tomorrow. Makes the days complete when you have conversation that is compelling between strangers.

19 July – A very disturbing night, no pillow or cover, loud residents and a suspected prowler, hardly slept a wink, it showed too. Had a lot of work to do but did it fairly swiftly. Rain midday but again nice and refreshing. Hung around for a while before going to the flicks.

Forest Gump is just brilliant, I cried the whole way through. Very touching moments, hit a few nerves in me, I really felt for the character. He was a bit of a simpleton who made one hell of a success of his life without trying and people still took the piss out of him. His talent was to run, he saw life as one long run trying to find your own truth, but you spend your whole life running. He loved one woman the whole of his life, eventually married her, after discovering she had had his child, of whom he was very proud. She was slowly dying and then he was left alone again. The son was there, but despite his wealth, which nobody would believe he had, he had lost everything. The sort of film that gives you the determination to do something positive and not listen to others’ criticism. Barely a dry eye in the
house. Had a huge pizza after and wish I had not, pains in the stomach.

Saw some good photos of Lima in South America. My two friends, John and Robbie flew over the Canyon today, each as a co-pilot, say it was really good, but I could not afford to do that. They go tomorrow, will be sad to see them leave, good characters.

20 July – What to do today?

Had the help of the perfect Tony, Jason and the horrid Michael, with
cleaning rooms, what a nightmare. John and Robbie left this morning, feel like a lost soul now. Mooched around rest of the day, I read, ate ice cream and went for a walk. May go to the swimming pool down at the university at some time to get some much needed exercise. Bumped into Michael, he was wandering too before leaving later. I ended up going to the Lowell Observatory, took in a bit more this time but did not bother to see the telescope. God this is a shit entry today. Was quite lovely going along the observatory road amongst the pine trees, however, not as lovely as the night time view of Flagstaff. Was interesting to see the place by day. Felt free for a while away from everything. The Vegas crew came back, penniless,
everyone says it is a fun place, but still not for me.

21 July – A day off of work, joined the crew to the Canyon, free of charge. Decided on doing my own thing and go along the west rim. Walked a short distance to the point where the shuttle picks up. Some sad Americans, typical I think, along route. To get to the rim is less than half a mile. The guy was concerned that he and his family had to walk that far and suggested taking the car along the route to better view points. Anyways, they ended up walking and as they met some people coming back along the trail the wife asked, ‘is it worth it’, as if to imply that the extensive hike might
have nothing at the end of it worth seeing. I just laughed. Continued my walk along to shuttle barely looking out over the rim, although it was more
evidently there, somehow looked very different.

Dropped off at Pima Point. From here you can section the strata’s back to 2 billion years. Amazing to think that I was standing on top of all that, it really is some sort of privilege to be given life and be a part of the Earth’s journey. Could see rafts bobbing through the rapids below, does not seem so far away as before, would love to know what it is like looking back up.
The old hermits camp was a dot on the plateau, he must have hated being
near people, so hot and desolate down there. Stayed for about ¾ hour and made the trek to Hermits Rest a mile away. The trail is unmaintained and so I did not know what to expect. I started off concerned but soon forgot my fears and the drop below. I had conquered and now simply enjoyed the
hike and the beautiful views. The rest came soon enough and welcome food break.

For most the souvenirs and snack bar, for it could not be classed as food, was sufficient for viewing.  However, I trekked along further and found the most tranquil spot you could ask for. The widest areas of the Canyon stop at the west rim and it tapers down slightly along the remainder of the 200 mile route. Only covered bits and pieces of a 32 mile stretch. I wonder what the rest is like, the park only wants to expose the fancy part.

The silence emanates its greatness, I think that here lie the secrets of the universe, deep within its folds. I can see you today, I accept you now, though none can compare to the first alluring trance. Your depth is in me, far beyond that what man has painted for my eyes. I wait for your wisdom and you speak to me through the whisper of the wind, the winging bird, the rapid waters flow. You are at peace with the world, safe from the eyes that pry. I wonder of the other. Swallowed in this peace, I rest. The silence breaks, cracks the sky and peril all who stumble midst your veins. A shadow cloaks and the secrets safe once more. Whistling wind defies the eerie air and begs my leave. No more to shine today. My eyes are stung, my mind is numb, still ever mystified.

The storm followed us home and we stopped for a camera shot, saw some elk too watching us from the distance.

I had a letter waiting when I got back, had a picture of the fucking cat. Binned. I should write but I do not want to, I will be back soon.

22 July – Quite a good day.

Had two new girls helping, we did a pretty good job. Rain come sunshine, nice to cool down. Quiet around the place, Mike and Dan gone off, Aisha out for the day. Had to do the washing so that was exciting, made an excursion to Macey’s to pass the time of day. Realised after the wash that my clothes are shrinking so will have to cut out the midday fatty foods. Will hopefully make it to the pool later, discovered that it shuts at 2.30pm and opens 5pm to 7pm.

Nobody was surprised at the American way yesterday at the Canyon. Karole made a suggestion that somebody should collect comments from the point as people walk by and made a book out of them. An interesting idea. John came back from Page early, blister ridden, got a ride offer so took it, can’t say as I blame him. I would like to go this weekend but doubt I’ll risk it. The lawn was laid today and boy was Fraser proud, it was an honour to be among the first to walk upon it.

Got to the pool not knowing how I would go, it is an Olympic sized pool. Was cold water but a quick length will soon warm me up. One length and I was knackered, realised it had been eight months since I had a proper swim for exercise. Managed a painful 10 lengths and retired, this little kid got in my lane and showed me up.

Dinner did not go down too well tonight. Rested up for an hour before returning to the masses.

Will actually hate leaving this place.

23 July – Boy did it rain cats and dogs this morning, just as we were doing work; felt like a contestant in the ‘Miss wet T-Shirt’ competition. Funny how people just stand and stare at the rain, nobody could go out and do anything, really put the dampers (excuse the pun) on any plans that one may have had.

Too late for a swim so tried Macey’s instead. Did not feel too bad today in any case. Finished my chores and hung around to try and catch a train. Luckily nobody asked me about it, would have had to admit to being a train spotter. Gave up after a while, fed up from waiting. Uneventful day really. Gary gave me one more job, did not do it as well as I would have liked. I had to phone up Fraser and pretend to be some sexy bird coming to stay. Got him going for a while, but blew it. Maybe next time, he should have given me more preparation time.

Had an entertaining evening with the belchy Oz guy, nearly got the peuk. I hit the decks early but the party rolled on until 5am. The music and trains are well implanted, at least I got some sleep, don’t know how some of them manage to go on the next day.

Current day thoughts

Now I remember who Randall is. Bit risky going off into the wilderness with
a stranger, despite the skinny dippers we happened upon, ?even more danger. No, we didn’t join in. Oh, the recklessness of youth.
I looked up the Riordan Mansion to remind myself of what it
was like. I can’t say as I remember it and judging by the pictures I am glad I didn’t go as it reminds me of the type of house they would use in a horror movie.

I do enjoy talking with new people, generally you never have
to see them again, so who cares what you say. It is good to remember the good times that never got to turn sour.

The hostel was quite good at giving slide shows on the surrounding fauna and flora and other areas of interest around the world. It provided entertainment for the evenings and brought everyone together.

I still have no interest in going to Vegas.

Please excuse the foul language following my poetic outburst. I like cats but I had issues with this particular cat. I know as an adult human being that one should have more rational thoughts with regards to an animal but there are clearly always exceptions. I did edit a lot of this section out.

I had a very love/hate relationship with the Motel Du Beau. I was starting to feel like part of the furniture, which isn’t a bad thing, but I had to move on like the seasoned traveller I was becoming. There did seem to be a lot of parties going on.

I gathered together a lot of ideas for my book writing, but have never acted on any. Note to self: must be more disciplined. I could be a wealthy woman by now. I could have gone up to the Canyon every day and each day would have been different. Must go again one day.

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Week 27 – 24 July to 30 July

24 July – Today is the day the trains get caught. A lazy, lazy Sunday, spent a fair time stood by the tracks, John was around so I did not feel quite so stupid. Every time I gave in and came back, numerous trains would go by, bit like waiting for a bus in London. More frequent in the evenings, so hung around chatting all afternoon waiting for my chance. Fortunately, a guy was there with his cine camera so had someone to talk to, however, a freight train was pulling out. Mile after mile passed before me and, as luck would have it, another in the opposite direction, two for the price of one.

A chitty, chatty day, quite nice really, dinner was wonderful, what will the night bring. Had a panic on, mislaid my bag, luckily handed in and nothing taken, will staple it to my side from now on. An extremely non-event, no music, no alcohol, just dead, but perfect sleep.

25 July – Full of good intention but the humid atmosphere crashed me out. Work as usual not so bad.

Made a move to the shopping centre to collect my pictures, ended up with new shoes as well. My nice new cheap ones got a bit trashed in the rain on the way. The photos all came out, but not really so interesting; fireworks, beach and parrots basically. At least I know the camera is working. Paid, probably, my last visit to the Coffee Bean for a cake and juice. The guy actually remembers me from before so we had a nice chat, kind of nice when you get that attention. Flagstaff is like that I have found. Like the lady in the teddy bear shop.

Had to sleep in the afternoon, so tired from the heat. Managed to get the card and Stephen’s birthday card off, so got that out of the way. John goes tonight as do Jackie and her mate (from Hull), or ‘Ull’ as they say it. Had some South Africans in yesterday, they joined the gang at dinner. Glad John came back when he did, I would have been lost otherwise.

Now that I realise how small Britain is I think that maybe I will bump into some of the Brits I have met. Some look so familiar, perhaps I already have. Jackie and her friend were in San Diego when I was there, weird huh.

Only two days to go, sad, sad, sad. If things never worked out back home, for whatever reason, I would come back here to live. The tarots could be stirring something up, this could be the place in the west.

Looks like a livelier evening, but still quiet in comparison. Swim tomorrow I think.

26 July – Could have been a good sunbather today, but it rained, Gary said it would. He is a strange one to get to know. Tak is getting more friendly, just at the last minute.

Would have gone down to the university after work but the rain stopped me, the umbrella is gone and I do not want to trash another pair of shoes, so went into Macey’s instead and had the most disgusting piece of pie, wish I had had a pizza with milk.

Everyone keeps mentioning about my last day, wish they would shut up. Walked around with a long face all day thinking about leaving. Did the packing today so that I can have a full day out and about tomorrow, not sure of what to do at the moment. Do I go up to the canyon and sit in the tranquillity or do I stick to Flagstaff?

Wandered to the Riordan Mansion to check out the situation there and then back to the swimming pool. Did 12 lengths today in a fairly quick time, so really pleased with myself and felt very fit.

Came back to a huge dinner and had to walk the block to let it go down, taking in some ice cream en route, which did not help. Came across a begging Indian lady, an elderly one at that, but alas alack no money to give her. I think, as I always have, that the Governments of countries are mostly to blame for a lot of poverty, so I am going to concentrate on charity causes in my own country before doling out to others. Sounds mean, but charity begins at home. Wild life matters are a different concern. Had a companion for part of my journey, an Indian, a traveller of sorts himself, think he is more of a drifter though.

I have decided that, despite the convenience of official association hostels, I prefer the independent ones. They are more relaxed and often offer better facilities. Today’s entry is going better than I had hoped, more thoughts coming to mind. Not a good atmosphere tonight, not my kind anyway, so retiring early. New headphones are on my list, I only have a left side.

27 July – A sad day. Just eaten my crumbled cookie that Karole gave me for the journey. Have to admit I cried at the thought of going, but fortunately not in front of anyone. Have this feeling I will be back someday.

Didn’t hang around this morning to see if any work was needed, I guessed they wouldn’t. Bought a ‘Trolley’ ticket for the day and went up to the museum of Northern Arizona. Not as big as I thought it would be. The journey up was quite interesting. Flagstaff got its name after some Mormon travellers pitched up for the night on their way to California. The following day they realised that it was Independence Day and hoisted a flag. A settler came upon it and marked the town on his map as Flagstaff. Made a comment about the Californians moving in and discovered our driver was from there originally.

The museum was interesting, good to see how the Indian is still very much alive in USA, the Navajos being the most populated. The further south you go the more tribal the Indians seem, like the tribes of South America. Dress is very frightening, almost voodooistic. The jewellery is certainly very ornate, silver and turquoise. Pots and basket wear, all very modern like. I love reading the wisdom of the words written by some people, very beautiful how they attribute all things to nature. Toys were most evident; wooden dolls in particular. Spent an hour and a half looking around, quite different from the culture I have seen in recent weeks. I have not been in a museum for some time so was not bored at all. The women were the workers, they spent all of their time making food preparation and the single ladies paraded themselves with a butterfly hairstyle in the hope of getting hitched.

A terrific thunder storm had worked itself up by midday, couldn’t really walk under the trees outside because of the lightening. Shame, it looked really nice and I wanted a good picture of the San-Francisco peaks. Re-booked the trolley to the Riordan Mansion area. Too wet to go there and too wet to venture to the Coffee Bean. Considered the flicks but ditched that idea as well. Wandered the stores until the next trolley came by and rode back to the Nava-Hopi depot. The trains always cause hassle when it rains. I wonder why?

Still a few hours to kill, drank tea, read, talked, didn’t want the time to come, but come it did. Everyone seemed to be around so no escaping the goodbyes, even got a hug from Mike the chef. Denise was designated to give me a ride to the station. A few tears there whilst waiting and a few on the bus, I really believe Flagstaff is for me. However, like all nice places, the more people who move there the bigger and badder it gets.

28 July – Had a fairly good night, a seat to myself so could make something of a sleeping position. The journey was pretty dull, breakfast was shit. Travelled to Albuquerque, then to Amarillo, ‘on route 66’, maybe not but it felt cool to think so.

Joined an already loaded bus, so shared seat. Texas is fairly flat, not much to see. The only interesting thing was the herds of cattle on a ranch, never seen so many in one place, felt like a movie. Day dreaming over sad songs. The toilets on this route must surely be the best to date in USA, very clean and accessible, 9/10. Supper was cereal and hot tea, not really so hungry at 9:30pm, the two-hour time changes have not helped, still one to go. Oklahoma City is oh so pretty, may have been when the song was written, but it is just a city. The state is pretty though, lots of woodland and open space, the film is a bit misleading. Tulsa is an hour stop for food and refuelling, time to write this. Heard the guy who was sat next to me say that he was from Connecticut, should have asked where, may have come from Wilton. He gave me a few hints on where to go in the area. Should be a shuttle from Boston to JFK, which would be excellent. Have an unwelcome body in the seat now, by the window too, think he imagined he was getting a seat to himself – tough shit guy.

29 July – Seems like I have been on this bus forever, some interesting
characters come and go, can’t even remember half of it. Changed buses in St Louis this morning. I managed to sneak in and out, due to some taxi drivers, found a McDonalds for a breakfast, much to everyone else’s disgust; there was nothing in the station to purchase. The next food stop was lunch time. Not much scenery to talk of, rained a lot of the time. Sat next to David this time around, a coloured guy from Washington DC, shame I am not going there. Did a lot of sleeping up to Columbus, a little chatting too. Not sure that Syracuse is such a hot place so will get out as soon as possible. David game me his number just in case I get into any problems, nice of him I thought. This is such a shit diary entry, bit like some of the rap music I was subjected to earlier on. Columbus was a bus change, seats to ourselves, hope they last all night. No stimulating thoughts today. Not sure where we are now, Wayne Country I think, have come across the first Hutterite type community people here at the Greyhound. Could possibly be Amish. Awful having people stare all the time, but they must know that they look slightly different. Must be such a nice lifestyle. Cleveland came, a two hour stop, time for food despite not being hungry. The minutes tick by quite quickly, thankfully. However, my brain is ticking slowly whilst stuck on a bus. Discovered that a lot of people do not even know where certain landmarks are in their own country. Guess I am a bit like that with the UK, a case of taking your own for granted and not being too interested. Started the last leg, late of course, could have hung back and got in less crowded bus. Only a smidge into the journey and a woman smashed into the back of us, so that put us out by an hour or so. No chance of sleep tonight, such an uncomfortable journey.

30 July – Somehow made up a bit of time so may be can get to the hostel
before morning chuck out. First thing I noticed, apart from looking like a
zombie, was my sleeping bag missing. Chances are it simply got squeezed
out but I was not the only one with things gone so I wonder. Put a claim in
way OTT price wise so expect I will be knocked down. Did not make a fuss
over it. I doubt I need it anymore now. Couldn’t handle the walk so grabbed
a cab, only $3 so who cares. Was very tempted to book a room in a hotel
owing to my lack of sleep, irritable mood. Had half an hour before being
locked out for the day, nice hostel, so had a brief lesson on the town and then dashed for a wash a brush up. Would love to have had a sleep, seemed
more awake now.

Walked into town, doesn’t look like a bad place despite what have been told. Got breakfast and milled around the centre for a while, trying to track down an information place. A guy rode alongside on his bike and made polite conversation, then rode off and wished me a nice day. Not sure what he was about, a warning I think. Quiet for a Saturday. Caught the bus out to the carousel shopping centre, bit livelier here. A hairy journey there and back again. The mall holds a lovely 1909 carousel made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Seems that the beautiful hand carved and painted horses were shunted around a bit, until being placed in its current position in 1909, much restored. Did a lot of shopping today.

One man who stays here is an American who actually walks places and knows of others too. Amazing stuff and interesting too. Had to move cause of a group of kids coming in, hope they are not too noisy. May send a card to the Du Beau. Dead tired now so skipping some points, not in the mood tonight.

Current day thoughts

You may have noticed some pictures starting to appear from the beginning of my journey, yes actual photographs – finally. Bit by bit I will catch up with myself.

One minute I can’t wait to get going and the next I am moving to America into the Du Beau – can’t work out where my mind was back then. I have never been back to the Du Beau and currently have no plans to, in fact I have rarely thought about the place since I left it. Out of sight, out of mind. The tarot lady had said I would end up living in the west. When I came back to England, I ended up living in Cornwall, was that the west I was destined for.

I wasn’t becoming a trains spotter, just keen to get a photograph of the trains as they came through Flagstaff as a reminder of their presence in the town. It was the sound of the horn I really wanted, but of course no video to capture it. It was a case of waiting for one to come along.

I did in fact bump into someone again further along in my journey, you will have to keep reading each week to find out when.

The trolley bus was a bit like a hop on hop off tour bus around Flagstaff. The Riordan Mansion really didn’t want me to visit.

My reference to Wilton in Connecticut is because I stayed there with a family when the Wilton and District Youth Band did an ex-change tour with the pipe and drum band based there in 1985.

Changing buses all the time on such a long journey is always going to be a hit and miss affair, and nobody knows how long you have to wait for the next one. We were not supposed to leave the bus depot at St Louis, though I managed to. Not sure what role the taxi drivers played in my achieving that. The lovely David, I remember him so well. We had such a laugh on that bus. I turned down some great offers on my journey, all because I had a schedule to follow. Who knows where I would be now if I had just been a bit braver. I actually like some rap music, it just happens that the only word I could remember from the song I listened to was the S word, so my entry was simply a relevant reminder of that.

I made it back across to the east side of America to Syracuse. I remember it being very quiet with not many people around and the guy on the bicycle was warning me to not go too far in the direction I was headed. I guess it was one of the bad areas. Perhaps that is why it was quiet, I stood out like a sore thumb. Thank you to him for looking out for me. I think the information bureau was closed. Of course, I was going to find people in the shopping mall, that’s where they all hang out. The bus drivers, and I am talking about regular town buses not the Greyhound type, seemed to be running late all the time, they drove so fast and dangerously at times. One of the passengers had to ask the driver to slow down at one point because his child was scared. On the whole though the drivers were good and were helpful to passengers.

The carousel is the main attraction in Syracuse, that’s why a YHA hostel is situated there, sometimes I did wonder why hostels were is such places but I guess they spring up close to points of interest. Good for a short stop-over and for school trips. I naturally had a ride on the carousel as I was there.

Shopping malls are great places to hang out when you’re bored, giving the exact opposite impression.

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Week 28: 31 July to 6 August
31 July – Must have been out like a light. Apparently there was a lot of explosive noise around 10.30pm, never felt a thing. Alarm call at 8.00am to make sure we are all up, fed, watered and out by 9.30am. I strung it out until the last minute. Just got my bed booked again, otherwise would have had a $1 late registration fee. Very strict here in the States, typical of the regimented feel of America.

Forgot to mention those brave young rookies, on the army garrison near St Louis, out running at around 4.30am. Reminded me of the film with Richard Gere in, can’t remember it now. More like torture than anything else.
Caught the buses, no hassle, to the Burnett Park Zoo. Am learning a lot more about zoos. Used to think they were a cruel thing, I still do to a certain extent. Some of the conditions are so cramped and you can tell that the animal is not happy. However, some creatures are becoming extinct and the zoos try to breed those animals in captivity and introduce them in the wild again, so can be good sometimes. Although there must be a reason for extinction, not all is human induced, so could be mother nature waving her wand. Quite a cute zoo, very easy to follow, one path covers all areas. More of a demonstration zoo than anything – elephants, sheep dog, pony rides. Most animals asleep in the heat of the day so not so interesting. Not a gimmicky place, just animals, one eating house, one gift shop, no food out the entrance area.

Had some extra time to kill so decided to hunt down the swimming pool. However, was side-tracked by my lack of sunglasses; was too much to think that somebody may have handed them in. Doing really well here in Syracuse. Only a short walk to the pool, and it was an open air one. A cool chill ran through me at the thought. No charge to get in either. You change and take your stuff out to the pool with you. A lot of horsing around so only did a few lengths and sunbathed for a while.

Met an interesting lady at the bus stop, she was of Russian origin. Firstly, she put me right on Syracuse being a bad place, it used to be but now ok, as I imagined. Then she told me about a Russian lady who managed to get out of Russian in recent years. She has to marry soon before her visa runs out and is scared stiff of going back. She is 38 with one child. Apparently there is still a lot of shit going down with the KGB and mafia. Protection money is required from businesses and the KGB are continually watching you, especially if you apply to leave. Starvation continues. If she went back she would either be branded (hot ironed) or killed. Did not think that still went on. Enlightening.

A sparsely populated hotel tonight. A lady who seems to be quite scared of travelling on her own despite being an extremely well-read person. She is running from a failed relationship; think she may have had some bad times in her life. She doesn’t think OJ did it either. A different kind of bunch over here. A lot of Americans use this hostel, not so friendly as us other internationals.

1 August – Up bright and early. Walked to the station, not so far, but boy was it sticky. A boring journey to Lake George, travelled on a subsidiary company of Greyhound, so not always 100% sure of what I was doing. The bus depot is a gas station, however able to leave my luggage for an hour as could not check in until 5pm. A very nice little town, a little designed on the touristy resort type style but looks fun. The lake is on tap with boating, swimming, etc. Beautiful Adirondack scenery all around. Basically covered the town in the 1½ hours I had to wait. All situated on one long main street, mainly tacky souvenir shops. Did all of my purchases. The hostel is very basic and a little cool and damp. Should survive a couple of nights.

The guy, James, is ok, talks too much though. Finding the accents a lot stronger now, very gangster like. I asked for a tuna (as in tune-a) sandwich and got a toon-a instead. Wouldn’t want to argue with them, bit scary. The eateries here are very nice, very upper class, polite service. More of the American type joints you would expect. Stocking up on fresh fruit for this duration, figure I need a little variation every now and then. No common room at the hostel so headed back out for a while. Sat down by the lake and enjoyed the atmosphere whilst writing my cards. I fancy a hike tomorrow. The paddle steamers were out on the water, seem out of place here. Should be unique to the southern states. Did start to get a little damp in the air and slightly chilly so came back. Was getting dark too. Although this is not the sort of place you need to run from in the dark.

Same as Syracuse, the inmates are not so friendly. Had to laugh at an English couple. They are away for about 5-6 weeks and seemed quite put out at James’ suggestion that they had only just started their journey, thinking that they’d actually done a lot of travelling. Could probably have spent all of the 2 months in this area as I planned, but would never have seen all that I have or met the people I have. Have I covered this subject before? Will stay a couple of days and leave on the 4th, no need to rush.

2 August – A wet day basically, in more ways than one. Got myself together early for my trek up Mount Prospect. Nice muggy day. Decided to check out the first trail instead of walking to the start of Vets Memorial Highway. Glad I did, because, as it stated on the map, there was the trail. I was knackered before I got there. A very rough and ready trail, but a well-trodden one. Only trouble is, it goes up instead of along. Was a bit dubious to start, was a bit spooky. Made sure I signed in, in case anything happened. Funny how every rustle sounds like a threat, was only chipmunks running around. Not so much to look at, trees ‘n’ stuff. I was concentrating on my foot work anyway. I imagine the path is worked on the course of an old riverbed, too good to be true otherwise. The trail was not so difficult as much as strenuous. Had to stop and catch my breath more than once or twice. A definite uphill struggle. The sweat was just running off of me, even out of my belly button.

After about an hour and a quarter, on one of my breaks, a woman came trundling up the trail. I was apparently near the top. Heaven knows what time she set off, got here pretty quickly, does the trail often as an exercise tester. Made me feel very unfit. I was pleased with the time span taken but did think it would be a longer trail and take longer too. My clothes were soaked from sweat, so the breeze at the top was most welcome. Amazingly enough only water on tap available, very environmentally concerned toilets and picnic tables. Bet that confuses a lot of tourists. What! No Pepsi machine, no souvenirs, just nature. What is life without a Pepsi machine. Unfortunately the sky was hazy so the view obscured, could only just see the lake below.  One route off of the summit trail was quite beautiful. Not many people veer off here so had a few peaceful moments sat on a rock reading my book. The last little bit to the top I found quite tiring, but I had an excuse, the lazy car drivers had none, but they puffed more than me. I did feel very much with nature today, so much so I kicked the boots off and whipped my t-shirt off, sitting in my bra-top, quite unashamedly. Anyone who disturbed my private spot was more embarrassed.

Could quite easily have stripped off and ran around naked, I felt so high, I got myself off on a mountain top. A couple of spots of rain so collected myself together and set back down the road, did not fancy a wet trail to slide down. And then the rain came down and down and down, lucky I brought the rain coat, not that it did so much good. I tried to find shelter under the trees, but to little avail, so I emerged in the sunshine a drowned rat, my feet soaked. I stopped part way and tried to dry my socks, one of the rangers offered a lift to the walking trail. I was happy to sit for a while on the rock whilst the steam rose all around. Stopped for another pee behind a rock; getting used to this squatting anywhere lark. Ended up coming back down the last part of the trail, did not take long. Can just imagine what I must have looked like when I rolled into town.

Found out that I need to go back down to Albany to get connecting buses into Vermont, Vermont Transit, which goes through St Johnsbury. Made my reservation there so can now go ahead and get the bus ticket. A load off my mind. Decided James is a bit of a sap. The band were playing in the park so had a listen, quite pleasant. Brad and Laura have been chatty tonight, they are archaeologists on a dig nearby.

3 August – Happy 33rd birthday Stephen.

Got up very late today. Heard Laura go so knew it was around 7am, however it is so dark down in the basement you cannot tell what time of day it is. Didn’t wake up again until 8.40am. Have to be out by 9.30am so you can imagine my hasty rushing around to organise myself.

Started my walk around the lake, did not get so far, it is so hot. Sat by the lake to write a letter, had a little stroll in the park but did not seem to get anywhere. Was nice walking under the shady trees. The cruises looked reasonably priced, so booked on to the ‘Horicon’ at 1pm for 2½ hours on the lake. Whilst waiting I bought a stamp for the letter. Unfortunately it had ‘LOVE’ over the top with a red rose heart with dove underneath, not good. Funny thing was that I got to thinking it may be Valentine’s day soon, goes to show how disorientated I am.

The cruise was pleasant, we sailed out 16 miles, half the distance of the lake’s length, covering many small islands on the way. Some were let out for campers, some just for bathers and a lot had private accommodations on, a perfect existence, cut off from the rest of the world. Just miles and miles of tree covered mountains. I figured this was a good way to see some of the surrounding area, would have been nice to do a round trip by car to catch the contrast. Much of shore is bedecked with housing, owned by people with far too much money. Rained on the way back, one half of the lake sunny, one half stormy. The rain draws itself to the mountains (these are the foothills so not so big).

Ate out for dinner, Pizza Hut, these food chains are all stingy in servings, best to go to an exclusive for more food. Kept waiting so, sorry, no tip today. A band, World Beat, are playing in the part tonight. Correction, Zeek Hull, or something like that, from Montreal. Songs are all African based, very loud, very rhythmical, but giving me brain ache. We actually have somebody at the hostel, two in fact, who came from Las Vegas.

4 August – Left Lake George on time, knew in my heart that we would not get to Albany by 9.30am. Turns out would have been too late any way, the bus leaves at 9.10am. Looks like an expensive accommodation night. The Ramada was closest, but $70 so hunted down the nice local bus drivers. Seems the cheapest motel is ‘Coco’s’. Sounds divine eh. There is however a YWCA in town, so paid my 75 cents fare and we were away. I kept watching for the motel area and waiting for the driver to announce my stop, but we kept going. Motels did look cheap, some cheap and nasty. A guy got on in a wheelchair and the driver made him comfortable, then he told me to make myself comfy because I still had another 45 minutes before my stop. Where am I heading for, we were just on one street so who knows. Ended up in a place called Schenectady, 20 miles away, not bad for 75 cents. Had company for part of my short walk to the YWCA, a man and his son. Turns out the son had a pen-pal in England, Jackie Edwards. Wanted to know if I knew her!!! The ‘Y’ is only $20 a night, have a clean, but non-functional room though. No light, window does not open, no bin. So hot in there I can hardly  breathe. Even lying naked is no good.

Sorted out the hostel in St Johnsbury. Nobody has heard of phone cards in this town. Could go swimming but feel so tired from the heat I doubt I would have the energy to do lap swims. Settled for a Burger King Big Fish Combo instead. Have to be up early so will not be doing much tonight. There is a TV room to veg out in and it is air-conditioned. The YWCA is full of friendly women, however, there is a difference to the hostels – these are real life people. Some I imagine have been battered, some homeless, they do a lot for women here. I think the rooms are rented out for up to 2 years in some cases. Swim classes, keep fit, gym, all sorts of programmes to help women back into society. Some tough old birds though. Am told I have a beautiful accent. Managed to wrangle a plastic cup for some tea, my only possession for refreshment, the lady in the kitchen must have had pity on me, a poor little waif and stray. Should survive one night and morning on water, have an apple too for breakfast. Not such a nice area so will be glad to be gone tomorrow.

5 August – A little damp first thing but glad of the cool. Caught the express into Albany so made good time, enough for a good breakfast at least. Vermont has some of the prettiest countryside and quaintest towns. I don’t think any of them are built up. Burlington, Rutland, Manchester, all wonderful liveable places. I imagine very well healed people live in Vermont and retired persons. So many trees everywhere, can just picture the Fall, must look fantastic. Rained most of the day and has become quite cold. Got to White River Junction and had a 3½ hour wait, only 1½ hours to go, stupid really. Nothing much to do, few shops, one to be honest, the rest were eating places.

Was picked up in St Johnsbury by Richard, house parent, not a communicative chappy, has an injured leg and I doubt he was happy at being dragged out. The house is a mile out of town, we passed it nearly on the way in, I knew I would. I can’t imagine they have had the house long; some improvements being done.

I don’t know why people have garages, they never put cars into them. He is a teacher, Pamela a housewife and two adorably horrid children. This is one of those middle working-class type families where the children are brought up on very strange disciplinary measures, probably from a book. Two Aussies are in, from Sydney, middle aged, away for 2 months nearly. They are not sure about this place, but it should do them for one night. The guy reminds me of Alan from Toodjay. Have to go do a chore now before bed.

6 August – A leisurely start. I waited for the ozzies to go before rising. Had a nice chat with Pamela through breakfast. Richard managed a good morning. They were going out in the afternoon so I had the privilege of a door key.

Headed into town and found the tourist booth, helpful to a point. Seems I can’t do much wilderness walking without transportation to get me there. The buildings on main street are of historic significance and there is a self-guided tour, but gave it a miss. Headed into the Athanaeum, the library, very beautiful inside. Same style as the Ottawa Government one, only smaller. They have an art gallery at the end with some impressive exhibits, no names I could recall. Only takes a few minutes to walk around, but a pleasant interlude. Wanted a picture of the library, but the camera conked out. Needs new batteries. The Fairbanks museum was close by, told it has a wonderful planetarium. If I had known what was in the museum before I paid $4 to get in, I would have only gone to the Planetarium at 1.30pm for $1.50. Downstairs they have a weather centre and, I think, must do live broadcasts every day, plus a few scientific experiments. The main floor is stacked with stuffed animals and birds, quite horrible, most or probably all were killed for pleasure. Some disgusting ‘bug’ pictures too. Upstairs were things from other countries, of old, dolls and rocks. Some memory triggers here, but not that interesting. Hated the place overall. Had time to nip out for a sandwich before the Planetarium show. This was a treat, taught in a simple way I learned more here than I have before on these types of talks. One of the main constellations he talked on was Scorpio, by coincidence. Look for the big ‘S’ in the south, spring and summer. Has a red heart, which concerns me a little. It is gradually dying down over the next few billion years, could die out and that would be a significant change to all Scorpios. The sun is expanding and will be closest to the earth, so much more heat. I think the end is coming nearer. Spent an hour in there in all, very interesting.

Now the hunt for my souvenirs. A definite lack of things with St Johnsbury on them, everything is categorised as Vermont, like it is one huge town. Walked miles to find this out, but a pretty walk it turned out to be. The maple museum has gifts, but just the same as the rest, so will get them tomorrow.

Quite a full house it seems tonight. No sooner than I had gotten onto the doorstep a woman came up. She seemed to think I should know something about a pageant going on, she left in a hurry, annoyed that no one was here to greet her. We have Dan and two other couples. I had to move rooms. My roommate snored all night, I had to wake her up to stop. Oh the peace afterwards. Interesting hostelling tales too and food before bed.

Current day thoughts
When there is little to do in a town it is easy to head towards anything that is going just to fill the time. I ended up at a zoo again after saying I no longer liked them, however I feel I become a little more educated through the experience in Syracuse.

I lost my sunglasses, the best ones I have ever had, got me a pretty penny too. Think I left them in the ladies toilets at the zoo, never to be seen again. I would be devastated to lose my sunglasses now as they are prescription ones, so I keep them on a chain around my neck whenever I am out and about in the sunshine.

I had some of the best conversations whilst waiting for buses to come along, the Russian lady was no exception. Do I believe all that she said about Russia, not sure, although I believed what she said about Syracuse. Was the lady she talked about in fact herself? I have never been to Russia but would love to go. We hear all sorts of awful things about other countries and find the experience there is very different, so I will reserve my judgement. I guess we all live in different worlds though, so experiences will differ.
OJ was found not guilty.

My Greyhound journeys between town/cities on the east side of the USA were much shorter so no more overnight journeys to take.

The hostel in Lake George was in the basement of a building linked to a church – it wasn’t the crypt though. Having said that it would have been hard to tell as the lighting was so dim you could barely see your hand in front of your face. It was damp down there too. I think the hostel manager never maintained the accommodation even with a bit of simple cleaning and the lighting was purposefully designed so we wouldn’t see how bad it really was. I remember him being a friendly guy, just not there in the mornings when you need to speak to him and not really into the whole managing role generally. I survived yet again.

I did feel fit and free on top of Mount Prospect and I didn’t care. Confidence in myself was starting to shine through.

It is easy to forget that large countries, such as the USA, will have quite diverse regions, so of course the natives will want to travel around to check it all out, and, unlike the UK, it can take days to get anywhere if travelling by road. Going from west to east and vice versa is like going abroad in the US. On the subject of travel. Being away for a long duration, and my 10 months away was by no means long compared to some, it is easy to assume a superiority with travelling. I met so many people who were away for their 2 week summer vacation who I laughed at, forgetting that I was so lucky and privileged to be in the position I was. New found confidence can leave you feeling elated and quite cocky. I wasn’t exactly in the real world at the time, something I would discover once I moved on from Lake George.

I remember the room so well at the YWCA in Albany, fine for one night, but it was so small and hot didn’t come close. I laid naked on the bed with a wet flannel on me to try and cool down. There were no curtains so who knows if anyone saw me. The ladies staying there were so kind. They didn’t know anything about me or ask my story and to be honest I’m not sure I would have felt comfortable telling them what a lovey life I was living. There was a togetherness about everyone, looking out for each other and that is what they were doing for me. I am not sure if the YWCA was the hostel featured in my guide book or not and I wonder what the bus driver was thinking about my situation to have taken me there. Questions I will never have the answers to.

The hostel accommodation in St Johnsbury was a first for me in terms of it being somebody’s home. One never quite knows how one fits in. I got the impression that this was a venture the lady of the house, Pamela, was more into than her husband. Still, it was pleasant enough despite having to do a chore as part of my keep. It was a big house considering all the guests who stayed there. There is a sense of comradeship when sharing travelling tales.
For a small town, St Johnsbury held some interesting places. It was definitely maple syrup country. I was so glad to have gone to the planetarium and learned so much about my birth sign, Scorpio. I often look up to the sky on a starry night in search of my star. We talk a lot about global warming and saving the planet today, but the talking has been going on for decades and, although I try to do my bit, I feel that nature is forging its own destined path and the little we do will have not be able to stop it. Nothing is forever.

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Week 29: 7 August to 13 August

7 August – The bathroom went well this morning, manged to get in at a reasonable time and wash my hair with the aid of a coffee mug. Hot out again today so travelling light.

Took a leisurely stroll to the maple museum, not as far as I thought and not as big as I had hoped.

The factory was one side and is sadly closed on weekends. The gift store on the other and the wee shack sugar house squeezed in the middle. The sugar house is where they actually used to make the syrup, so a history, with artefacts, of the making is depicted all the way round. Amazing how a small tap driven into the maple trunk can produce such a product. The tree has to be a certain age before being tapped. Sad to see how some people abuse things by using them as trash cans. The evaporator was being repaired, but you could get the basic idea, it is roughly a process of burning the syrup to perfection. Different gradings can be made according to the colour at the end. Had a few tastings in the gift shop and rather over indulged in the sweet things, candies, syrup and fudge. Quite a pleasant place to stop at.

So, the day was still young and still hot, time to check out the swimming pool. Took the long route there, but it is not so far from home. Raced back and got my cossie. The pool is run by the Kiwanis and is free, not bad and not crowded either. Mainly kids but who cares. Think some of the lads tried to subtlety get my head soaked, but I resisted and ignored them. Did a few widths and dried off in the sun. Was just what I needed as I am feeling like a blimp at the moment.

A little but of decorating going on at home, poor Richard can’t get away with it even with a bad leg. The house has 17 rooms, must have 18 now as the room being decorated is a renovated shed. Just a huge place. A good investment and a lifetime project by the looks. Must look out for this Bread and Puppet Pageant, sounds weird, does Europe as well. My roommate has moved in with her hubby tonight, thankfully. She reckoned she was nervous last night and apologised for giving me a rough night. I could have given her a heart attack when I shook her bed. Having an early night as no one to talk to tonight. This is a ‘New England’, felt just like the English countryside today.

Thought today that if I had gone to India first I would be seeing Vermont in the Fall, bit of a bugger.

8 August – I will never arrive anywhere else without booking first, nearly ended up paying through the nose for a bed tonight. Had a lift to the bus depot this morning, was such a beautiful day. Arrived Boston quicker than I had imagined, not such a bad thing as it turned out. Found the hostel easily and got a reservation, however not in the same building, they have an overflow summer hostel 10 minutes away. Can’t get in until 5pm, left my pack until then and went walk-about downtown Boston. Whale watching looks hopeful. Seems quite a nice laid-back sort of city. May pop over to Harvard whilst here. Will go to Cape Cod tomorrow if the booking goes through, but cannot find out until much later tonight. They expect me to go back over to Hemmingway Street hostel at 10pm to check – stuff that. I will phone and pick up anything tomorrow. Collected the luggage and made the traipse to Beacon Street and found a long queue waiting to get in. The door was not locked, there was just one person on the desk, 12 beds and 26 reservations – big headache. After 1½ hour wait, some went off to find other digs and myself and another girl edged our way to the front. Finally got in and thankfully got a room for the night. Was starting to get worried. They do have a third house for further overflow, so think I would have gotten a room eventually. Able to do washing but not cook, so ate take-out, showered, which was wonderful. Started to sort out my JFK link, do not think there will be any problems but want to make sure. Boy am I glad that I have learned not to panic over things. Now, Cape Cod…..No go for tomorrow so try for two days’ time. Managed to book into here for tomorrow night too. Things are not going to plan – stay calm, stay cool, it will happen.

9 August – Waltzed into the other hostel without being checked and had breakfast. Storing some goodies until the evening. They couldn’t find my failed reservation for Cape Cod so I have to come back later.

Checked out Cambridge today, the Harvard sector. I have never been to Cambridge in England but I imagine this area is based upon it. Very university type feel to it. Lots of young people bustling, street cafes, bookshops. However a lot of tourist opportunities. Some beautiful buildings all around – red brick type with greyish/white interlay and ornate carvings all over. Strolled around Cambridge common by the Radcliffe College, women’s study college, now directly associated with Harvard. I have always confused universities with private schools in regards to their set up. Private schools are one big institute whereas universities are a cluster of buildings in a designated area, each hall being a community on its own, creating more of a college type existence.

Now a bit more orientated, I went for a drink, self-seating establishment, so I sat myself at a clear table (for two) and waited service. I was asked if I would mind moving to another area, I did so and was sat at a table for six. Served and happy with my lot I was approached again and asked to slide along to the near end of the table as a party of three were waiting to be seated. I showed a certain amount of disapproval at this and muttered an agreement to do so. Felt like a spare piece on a chess board. No tip here and shan’t come back.

The Harvard Yard holds the main of the study buildings and, I dare say, the administration too. A gorgeous area of trees, pathways and beautiful buildings. The Widener Library is the most prominent structure and, although tourists are not allowed into the main reference area, we were allowed into the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, with many shelves stacked high with his collection. He was a Harvard scholar who was killed in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Many classics I spotted and titles unheard of. A wonderful collection. I strolled around some more, much enlightened by the atmosphere and came upon the Memorial Church.

An unspectacular interior in itself but held much sadness within its walls. The church was built in memory of the war dead. So many brilliant minds wasted by ignorance. I see the majority area of those killed were potential lawyers. I would love to know which hall is the most sought after, or the most difficult to get into for study. Feeling, by now, very scholastic I sat on the steps and read a chapter from my book. Whence a large troop of people came along and on engulfing the entire area, I was forced to move. Somebody was filming the whole event and we wondered what importance these people had. Turns out they are a Cambridge technology group, whatever that means.

I then sought out the law school, situated away from the yard, and wondered at all of the study case histories that may be lurking behind the doors. I nearly went into the museum but found it to be full of dead birds and animals, so refrained. I walked down to the boat house along the Charles River and found a spot to relax and read a while, after which I made the gradual journey back to the hostel to sort my query out.

Apparently, the hostel in New York and Washington advise people that Boston are very slow (and not so efficient either). It took them 1½ hours to decide that there was no record of my having pain $12 deposit. However, a mock receipt was made out and I got it back – not so of my food though stored in the fridge. Will be glad to see the back of the place come the 20th. Managed to get a reservation at Eastham. Truro was engaged, so I am happy now. Forgot that the ‘Cheers’ bar is in town, so will suss that out when I come back into town. A lot of people went out last night but I was plum knackered and had a headache. A lot of activity going on in Harvard Square.

10 August – Set off to South Station around 10am, had plenty of time to get my ticket and was prepared just to sit it out. However, crossing the road to the Peter Pan terminal, who should I run into, Jackie from ‘ull and she was still limping. Seems it was a spider that bit her ankle in Flagstaff. Her foot is still swollen. Her and Natalie have had a good time, they met Cher in New York, had dinner bought them on the train, twice, and a ride to their hostel, somewhere, I think by some kind policemen. Was going to dump my pack, get my ticket and go back to the station for a coffee with Jackie. Natalie was off whale watching, but could not leave my pack and waited instead. Shame, would have been nice to chat.

Not such a picturesque coach journey as I imagined it would be, just highway, trees and industrial establishments, so sat and enjoyed some more Jane Eyre – such a good book. The story is normal but the literary style makes wonderful reading. Got dropped off in Orleans and was pointed in the general direction of Rock Harbour Road, but took the wrong one and ended up going in a circle. Not wanting to appear on the same road again I turned back and sought direction from a church thrift shop. I was offered a ½ hour rest in return to a lift to the hostel by a kind lady. I had a rummage whilst there but did not find any bargains I needed. The ladies were enthralled to hear of my travels. The journey by car was not exact to my map but equally as long, and long it was, far too long with a backpack. I dread the return. Will try for a lift of some sort. Taken right to my door I was eternally grateful of this kindness; church people are so charitable.

The hostel is nice, small wood cabins, sparsely furnished with concrete floors – reminded me of Ayres Rock Resort. Have some messy room-mates. Got settled and headed out for provisions and ended up with fish and chips, too dear really and I was not that hungry, but figured the walk would run it off. Lots of nice shops to visit. Found a health food store and overspent on groceries. They did not have handled bags, just paper so had an hour’s torment of a walk to get back. I took an alternative route and seemed twice a long – it was dark by my return. I will think twice before attempting it again and will spend tomorrow on the beach to relax. Everyone keeps to themselves in the common area, not the same atmosphere as I am used to.

11 August – Am not pleased with my lot from the health food store. The water tastes like piss, the lettuce like shit and one of the apples had a maggot wriggling in the centre. Pesticides from now on, and to think I nearly broke my back carrying it all home. Had an unproductive day in all. Strolled off early as I could to check the area out.

I intended to do a little sunbathing later, if the sun would only appear. Got onto a ‘No through road’ and came out at a beach of some kind, very duney, marshy, a haven for dog owners I imagine and bird watchers. The tide was out and, with the few boats dotted amongst the marshes, looked very picturesque. Would love to have one of the properties down here, the locals are good in these small places at locating themselves in secluded places. The pathways brought me out at Rock Harbour and a much larger beach. How good it is for lounging around on I have yet to discover. With dogs being allowed to scamp about over it I doubt very good. Plonked myself down at the end of one of the rock harbours or rather the man-made rock wall entrances to the harbour and wrote some cards. Very strange how they have planted spindly tall trees in one line out to a certain point. Maybe it is all natural. Got chilly and I needed a pee so hit the road toward town. Had to go all around the houses to get there, ended up at Wendy’s. Have discovered since that I do not need to make a purchase in these places in order to pee. Spent the rest of the day strolling the town in search of my treasures, of which I found half, again nothing with Orleans on it. The sun was not about so perfect weather for wandering. Need a tremendous amount of pee time today. It concerns me for old age, will I be troubled? Stopped off at the Jonathan Young Cove Park where a windmill stands, however could not go in as it was closed, so have no idea of its history. Found a quiet spot alongside the town cove and sat reading for a while, very pleasant. Very tired tonight, rested nice and early.

12 August – ‘Oh the sun will come out tomorrow’. Nice and easy does it. It came out today, hooray! Walked the two miles or so to Staket Beach – at least if it rained there should be shelter.

The tide was out when I got there at 10.30am and the beach sparsely bodied. Planted myself not so far down the beach, quite a good spot as it turned out. Well, the sun shone and shone and I turned front and back to promote a gradual tan on the lily bits and tits too. As the morning progressed the beach filled with families. Nobody else bared the breasts but I felt that, as most persons were small children, they would not object if I lay there quietly and bared mine to the sun. I heard no sneers, comments or objections, only one letch seemed to linger toward the end of the day. I find these days that reading good literature has made me talk in a similar way to, myself mainly, and to write also. I spent a good five hours on the beach and as the day slowly progressed, so did the tide. Those foolish enough to plant themselves down by the water’s edge soon retreated to the few good spots left at the top end. By mid-afternoon the water was ripe for the swim and I did indulge briefly to cool down. The water did look a little misty. I managed to slightly char my back and behind, so was lucky, at least most of the bod is blending in. I was offered a ride back by someone who observed me walking, however he was on a cycle so don’t think it would have worked. The sun was going in by now so was nice to stop off at Rock Harbour to cool down a while in the breeze. How different it looks when the tide is in. Have noticed how many people write diaries at the end of the day. Would love to read them and discover their literary content and quantity. Hoping for a ride to Truro on Sunday but am expecting to trudge to the bus stop, although having found my short cut it does not seem so far.

Woodstock is this weekend, how I would love to be there, but for cash I should have.

13 August – Rain again this morning, supposedly brighter later. Tempted to hire a bicycle and head off but it is so hot and sticky. Was offered a lift into town by a guy staying at the hostel, however he was on a motor cycle so I declined. A. I hate motorbikes, B. I was not dressed suitably and C. I could not see another helmet on offer. It was only a short distance but not worth the risk. This evening the guy approached me concerned that I may have though him some mad rapist or murderer.

Decided once I reached Main Street that it was too hot to ride so would go on a cruise around the marshes. The breeze would be nice. Had a while to kill before setting sail so looked around the windmill. The guy was on hand to offer a guided tour. The mill has been in the area for its entirety from the 1600s, must be one of the oldest structures in America. It is 80% original, the 20% restored due to certain beetles eating away at the beams. We had quite a little chat and somehow veered from the subject in hand. The beams are red oak, trees which do not grow in the area anymore. They were all stripped for the purpose of building and the result on the land was such that sandy soil happened and only scrub trees exist now, which I guess is good from the point of view that the land is free to flourish for the time being. The top half of the mill is designed to rotate so that the sails could be positioned to the wind direction and thus production could continue. How so of the techniques nowadays I wonder? I also learned that there is not, as yet, a system that regulates the extents of a town limit so the committees attempt to sell off as much land to the buyer as possible, in order that less housing is erected. However, the owners are then restricted as to any extensions they want to build on their own land. I am now eternally grateful for our National Health system. The Americans have to take out extensive medical insurance policies to pay their bills and they run into $1000s. I guess the welfare people must get some sort of aid. It is all under review at the moment. I learned if I sue, the lawyer gets 75% earnings and get 25%, so in order to make a million the lawyer gets 3 million. They are such leeches, clever ones at that. The mill was a clever invention too for its day. The guy agreed that the children need an intense history lesson. Some of them who come to see the mill want it to work or to see moving pictures of it working. Something as precious and static as this means nothing to them.

The boat ride certainly stirred up a breeze, I needed my sweatshirt. We made a two-hour trip around the Nauset Marshes. The marshes apparently absorb a lot of the pollutants from the waters and grows about a foot a year. A birdwatcher’s paradise – gulls, terns, ducks, geese. I missed out on a good photo opportunity when we passed gulls swooping for sand eels. Some nice beaches to descend on, most only able to sail out to for seclusion. I guess you use the water for natures call. Plenty of people out today. The area is also good for clams and lobster.

Lots of people out digging for soft sand clams for supper. As for the lobster pots, each mature resident is allowed 10 lobster pots, 20 if you have students at home. (I guess for parties) and anymore you have to wait for. There is a list of 20 years wait. You can buy them from people willing to sell but the cost is average $40,000. Looks like a lot of wheeling and dealing goes on and a lot of pilfering. No wonder lobster is so expensive in the restaurants. Our boat too had its pots and we stopped to check their contents. Crabs, starfish and weed – no lobster. Dead fish are placed in the pots as a lure. I actually had four small starfish in my hand. Could have watched them slowly die and took them home but returned them back to their natural home.

Read for the rest of the afternoon, determined to finish my book. Had a more interesting meal tonight and so was content. Will pack up tomorrow for the trip to Truro, the bus is only $4.

Current day thoughts

It is amazing to think that so much maple syrup is available for us to buy considering the length of time it takes to produce. It is a real labour of love. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. The Kiwanis are an organisation who assist in community projects and do a lot of fundraising. The Bread and Puppet Pageant is touring theatre company which I never got to see and I have never heard of since, although from my Google search it is still going strong.

I loved Boston, it made me feel good and more positive about myself, like parts of my brain were being woken up from a long sleep. I am quite a calm person by nature. I never liked it when plans didn’t go my way, but I have learned that there is a way to solve problems, and to worry about things too much is not good for one’s health. I have always said that I have lived a charmed life, not perfect by any means, but things seem to work out in the end, and so it did in Boston with the hostel situation. It sounds like the workers at the hostel were maybe a little lax with the administration side of things.

Stealing food from communal kitchens happened in all the hostels and it probably still does today, it happens in work places and in shared houses too – If you’re that desperate just ask!

It is hardly surprising that Cambridge, Boston had a very university feel to it considering it is home to one of the most famous universities in the world. It was interesting to note that women were starting to be taken more seriously then, breaking into male dominated sectors of society. These days the male population are starting to feel left out, not right but I guess what goes around comes around. Who knows in the future men could be campaigning for equal rights with women. The area was generally very inspiring. I love to wander in big libraries, especially old ones with character. I would be back in Boston soon.

Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time.

I had forgotten about the charity shop ladies on Cape Cod, but reading this again has brought the memory back. I was easily disorientated despite having a map, and it only takes one wrong turn to take you miles out of your way (it wasn’t miles, just seems that way when walking). Such nice ladies.

From memory Cape Cod is a very laid-back place and people tend to hang out in the region to chill out rather than socialise, although for residents there is clearly community and they still have the national food-chain outlets the same as anywhere else.

It is funny reading out my concerns regarding my urination habits. These days I am more aware of incontinence issues and, as some of you may remember, I recently took advantage of some freeby incontinence product vouchers, stocking up for the future. I do not see myself as pessimist, more of an optimist that there is a future for me.

Yes, I sunbathed topless and not for the first time. I don’t see the problem with it and apparently neither did anyone else.

I rode pillion on a motorcycle once and I hated every minute of it, never feeling safe, and I never want to travel on one again. It might be different if I were in charge of the bike, but I am not in a hurry to find out. Nowadays I would consider anyone who offered me a lift as a mad rapist or murderer.
Woodstock was celebrating its 25th anniversary of the famous 1969 festival. I was so close but had to be economically sensible.

I clearly missed my calling as a lawyer. I missed my calling at a lot of things. If only I had the confidence when I was younger. So many what ifs in life.
The rules on lobster catching was quite an eye opener. Does everyone get a fair share though? Say for instance, and assuming there is a plentiful supply of lobster in the waters, all of the lobsters get into one person’s share of lobster pots and into nobody else’s pots, will they just take what they want and put some back or will they share them around or sell them to restaurants for profit. A dog eat dog situation.

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Week 30: 14 August to 20 August

14 August – Wow, quite a day. Had to walk to the bus stop but was not such a bad trek, took a rest half way. Did notice one lady at the hostel remark to her mother when she saw me – ‘poor girl’. She had a car so could have offered me a lift. Some people imagine that you cannot possibly have set out with the intention of travelling this way, walk, with a heavy load. Unheard of. The bus was a little late but not so much. In any case I had time to spare.
Truro downtown consists of an extremely expensive grocery store, a post office, couple of restaurants and nothing else. It was still hot at this time. A couple of others were waiting behind, deciding whether or not to head to the hostel, but I carried on after purchasing some refreshment. If the road was a mile and a half to the hostel then I am a monkey’s uncle. It was a good three miles. I was dripping by the time I got there.

After a time others came by, the two at the bus stop and a very drenched French guy with a soggy paper sack, and then some inquisitors from New York and then Michael. During my wait a ferocious storm was brewing, the wind was howling around. The sky was terrific, I imagined myself abandoned on the moors of England, much like a literary heroine.

Now, back to Michael. He is a New Zealander and has currently been away from his dairy herd for just over a year and plans to travel for a further 2-3 years. He came away with $500 and threw away his return air fare once here. He has hiked across Canada in the winter with no particular destination in mind, slept on roadsides, beaches, picked up work on the way, some well weird situations. He joined some fishermen for work and ended up spending 3 weeks with them. He just has this instinct for survival and falls into his situations at the last moment. I think a lot of his time is spent in a drunken stupor. Would make such an amazing story, I’d love to write it. And at the end of it all he is going back to his dairy farm, how sweet.

Rain over, Fergus, myself and the girls decided to go into town to shop. It was raining again quite extensively. Michael was waiting to take us back to his current digs, we wanted the loo so we joined him. We walked up a drive way, past the house and into the garage. This was where the guy lived, he rented from the house owner. What a hovel, we were worried, the bog was behind a curtain, which the dog seemed to like passing through to suss us out whilst seated. It did work amazingly. He had a TV and video, fridge, outdoor shower and he was happy, but, it was all so trashy and dirty, even Michael does not eat or drink there, except beer. The guy was nice though, I understand he had had cancer and now undoubtedly prefers the peace and solitude of a simple life. Mattresses on the floor above provided his bed.
On the way back it was raining but as luck would have it a ride was offered and we piled in. Have learned some interesting things from Michael, more things a man could get away with than a woman, but worth remembering. Could keep you amused for hours with his tales. Just feel like I am drifting at the moment. I am here on the Cod but it is a hell of a place to get around so not doing anything really. Feels like England anyway. Not even sure if I have a bed for the next few nights, my reservation was not listed. Even in Boston I have to just turn up. Can’t wait for bed. My backside looks like a battlefield at the moment. Wish I knew what was going on. The evening was wet and wild, it was remarked that it resembled the Lake District, I should find out one day.

15 August – Abandoned to the wilds today I left the secured haven and roamed the dunes. You really are stranded all day if you have no transport. Not so good to have no shelter from the sun, or toilet facilities. I see no reason for closing the hostel, shall make my point at some stage. I followed the Cranberry Bog Trail to the Bog House.

Quite a pleasant little trek through the shrubbery. You would never think that the cranberries could ever originate from such a place. There is a legend that goes with the originating of the berries, which involves an old woman, a giant and a drop of blood. I think the Indians created it. It was also the Indians who taught the white man the properties of them. The trail continued past the bog and left to a stretch of secluded beach. Looked just perfect, only three of us there, so plonked myself down.

It was a hot sun but the wind was strong on my back. Was nice just to relax without a care, but the flies constantly disturbed my peace, they sting you and draw blood, it really is quite tormenting. I threw food down but they showed no interest. Oh for more bodies to distract them from me. The sand was so, so soft, it whipped up in a frenzie in the wind. From the sky to the ocean many blues blended together and with the rugged dunes behind it really was quite beautiful. I sat in my underwear; I could quite easily have stripped naked I felt so good. Along came Michael, book in hand, on his morning jaunt. Quite a scholar at heart I think and at one with nature. Seems he and Rick had a conversation on the meaning of life last night, instead of beer, but I don’t think Rick is up to such stimulating conversation. He stayed for a while and strode off. He never stopped on his return. I was twice desperate for a pee and, not wanting to go in the sea, I went in the sand discretely. Sounds awful but no harm done. I would have read more but for those flies, I could not concentrate on anything. Tossed and turned on a couple of areas of beach and enjoyed the solace that our sculptor has to offer. Found the loos in the parking lot, portacabins, nice. Got back onto the road, the wrong road, ended up going all the way back downtown along the south road, rested and came back along the north. The clouds were dark and so I imagined it would rain again, besides I could not stand anymore sun beating down on me.

Got in quickly at 5pm to get the first shower, my skin felt awful. I burned too so no more sun for me for a while. Getting concerned about Boston, however sure it will work out. Have to start getting myself organised, doesn’t feel like I am nearly on my way home. There is still India.

Went back out to the cranberry bog to take some photos.

The weird French guy had followed, he was on his way to the dunes to see the sunset. I imagined he had come out to murder me and leave my body to sink in the bog, never to be found. Walked up to the top of the hill outside the hostel to watch the sun set. Felt so good to be amongst the heather, up aloft it all, alone and free with the wind afresh, nothing around but the greenness of the land, the blue of the ocean and a most spectacular sunset. I have never, from memory, seen such a sun. A vibrant orangey red. I sat and watched until the earth had tilted away from its sight. I realise now that that is how the tides work. Have to find the solitude of this existence somewhere, I am happy like this.

Finished Jane Eyre tonight, a happy ending and a brilliant book.

16 August – One of my most exhausting days to date. Mentioned that I thought I had been short changed yesterday, they would look into it. I am pretty certain though.

Caught the 8.23am bus to Provincetown so had a pretty full day ahead. I got it in my head to walk out to Long Point Lighthouse, the very tip of Cape Cod. Walked to the edge of town and out on the Province Land Road to what I imagined was close to the tip. Only took an hour so I was pleased as punch and unruffled. Got on to a trail and it was a while before I realised it was not going in the right direction. Not wanting to re-trace my steps, I made a rash decision to go cross country. I wondered whether I would encounter quick sand or something, it was getting uncomfortable with my pack by now. The soft deep sand made walking very difficult and I hate sand in my shoes. Came out by the lighthouse and hoped I was not on private property. Got onto the beach and walked in my chosen direction, many four wheeled drive cars were out for the day for the fishing. I seemed to get nowhere, certainly did not look like I was nearing my destination. I felt compelled to continue to reach my goal without a rest, but the sand was so hard on my legs I had to stop. I ate a little, drank a little and read a little. I figured I have reached the tip and was heading back around it, so went back the quicker route along the beach. It took forever to get back to the rest rooms, I needed a pee desperately so went in the sand. I had my shoes off, the sand was hot and the pebbles annoying, I thought I would die from the heat, I had no feeling in my feet. I did not rest for so long before wanting to head back. I had refreshment and started to walk off. By the way, it was very lovely looking out to the sea. The breeze was cooling, the air refreshingly clean, only the sun was too much without shade. Anyways there was a shuttle bus into town so, being knackered I felt I had done my exercise for the day, I boarded it.

The town is very quiet, much like Cornwall, with some wonderful exclusive shops. Spent the remainder hours searching each shop for that special something. Saw lots of things, but would not commit myself. Nothing actually jumped out at me and said this is America, so banking on Boston. I think that Provincetown is the gay capital of Massachusetts. The store holders are a giveaway, but you also see both male and female couples holding hands in the street.

Must ring JFK tomorrow. Have sussed out some shops in Boston so should all be hunky dory. Have to admit I was pissed-off with the seashore by the end of the day. I am absolutely shattered.

Never really got to my point did I. The lighthouse I reached was totally wrong to the one I wanted to get to, I had headed in the wrong direction, such a shame, I think.

17 August – A frustrating but fun day. Made it to Boston ok and in good time. Went straight to the hostel. Was good to actually know where I was headed. No room at the inn, or the summer hostel. However, with three vacant bodies we could go to the Farrington Motel or was it an Hotel, for $22. We had two bodies, me and Angus, so we waited for the third and whilst we waited, I did my post cards. A third accosted, Christopher, we headed off on the underground and with good directions found the Farrington on Farrington Street. My bites are killing me today, loads have appeared. It is a very nice olde worlde style furnished place and our bit is more like an apartment, again very nicely done out. Breakfast is included so quite a good deal. Still not certain about the next two nights.

After a freshen up and feed I set off to the Faneuil Hall and Quincey Market area. Boston has some of the most picturesque and beautiful architecture I have seen I America. Such a good party atmosphere too, the bars and restaurants are packed out by dusk. The square looks even better when dark and lit up. We got some food and then wandered around the stalls and shops and had a fun time. The thing I liked best were the finger massagers, very useful gadget. Then strolled along the wharfs, getting wet in the rain. Angus is in the hotel business and so we entered the Rowes Wharf Hotel. I think he wanted to see how they reacted to our appearance, no great shock really. In fact, we had the doors opened for us. Very nice place indeed with a lot of well-dressed personages wandering about. Looked into one of the limousines outside, just a glorified bar on wheels, nice if you can afford it. Discovered we are staying in the gay district so lots of lovies about. I guessed we were from the guy stood outside a nearby club.

Should be interesting tonight, I have the single and Angus and Chris have a double – cosy. Angus is Australian and Chris is Swiss. The flight confirmed I can relax a little until Saturday, I hope it drags.

18 August – Not such a traumatic day as I imagined. Sometime during the night Angus put up another bed in the room for Chris. I must have been well out of it.

I got up nice and early and went over to breakfast at 8am, to which we were cordially invited. Muffins and fruit and beverages were the fare of the day, all served up by our lovely host. Did notice one Chinese man take about three oranges and two apples for the day. The guy hosting us was most keen to know of my writing and hoped I would do some passionate work – so do I. Chris had been out painting the town red, Cambridge in fact, came home in the early hours, never heard him either. Said my goodbyes and made a dash for the Back Bay Hostel. I couldn’t wait for Angus.

Turns out after a jostling time on the subway that I made it just in time. Noticed how locked into separate worlds each person is on the subway, especially the morning rush hour time. If I had fallen I doubt anyone would have picked me up. I simply grabbed at the nearest person and made a general nuisance of myself. Got into the hostel with minutes to spare and with literally one bed to spare. Was dripping wet so desperately needed a shower, but no time, so mopped myself down with a towel, strew my things around the room and dashed out.

Spent the whole day ducking in and out of the Quincey Market shops and strolling the harbour. The rain was on and off so not so bad, it was still hot though. Tracked down my Boston Cream Pie, expensive but nice. It is cake with two layers of custard, chocolate topping and nuts edging. Was chatted to by a mafia type Bostonian outside the customs building. He was a hospital administrator so must have been rolling in dosh.

I understand a bit more about the Boston Tea Party now. It was brought about by the warring between England and America. A shipment of tea was dumped in the harbour in protest. I should think that the Bostonians must hate the British, with all of the fighting that went on between them. Never realised before.

Saw lots of nice things to purchase, the best being $2300, however settled for a sundial with a map of the USA on and ‘Seize the day’ (in Latin) on it. Kind of appropriate I thought and will suffice for us both. I waited and waited for sundown, must have looked suspicious lingering all of the time. Finally got the right atmosphere and took my piccies. Was ready to go back then. Looking forward to my whale watch tomorrow.

19 August – The day but one and what a gloomy one at that, in more ways than one. Just the right setting to suit my mind and the way I feel at present. Cannot drum up any enthusiasm for going back to England.

The weather was wet first thing, very wet, but I togged myself out in my sailing gear. Reached the wharf soaked to the feet, well only my feet actually. A few of us hung around the ticket booth, but no show of teller, then a guy wanders up and tells us that there will be no whale watch today, it was too rough out there. My world crumbled, I couldn’t begin to explain how deflated I felt, my big finalé gone. The company operating nearby however were doing a whale watch but they left 15 minutes earlier. What to do now? Took an hour Inner Harbour Cruise for 10.30am – time for a bit more breakfast. 10.30am came and 10.30am went and I appeared to be the only one around. The ticket booth then inform me that I would have to wait until 11.30am, there was a group arriving to make up the numbers, so buggered off again for an hour. 11.30am came and again the captain looked doubtful, I was getting mad. Then the group turned up and we could thankfully set sail. The cruise was the usual thing – buildings, docks and trivia. We stopped by the USS constitution dock, so got off for an hour to look around. Some ship festival going on. Tall ships from all over were on view. Included was the Bounty which I think was in Sydney. The area was nice so got a coffee and searched for the USS constitution. Found it back where I had started, but not in the condition I imagined. The ship is the oldest warship around and they are painstakingly restoring it. You can still wander on some of the areas, but it has been stripped so not much to see at all. Back in dock I still had time to kill, did a silly thing, booked onto an outer harbour cruise with the other company, because the present one had cancelled all further cruises for the day. Shouldn’t have bothered, it also included the inner harbour which I had already seen, plus a few little islands. What a crap day, at least it has stopped raining. Finished it off by walking to the Cheers bar on Beacon Street.

Thinking on it, I could probably have walked most of the time here in Boston, the subway always makes things seem so far away, but they are not really. Went down the stairs to look around. Inside is very pokey and was full to the brim with people – some eating, some drinking and some like me just being nosey. I used the loo and checked out the memorabilia and got out of the place. Must be looking my age, they never asked to see my ID. Took piccies of various shots and came back to the hostel.

A mega sort out and chuck out. My wash was a problem but a little more money to put it right. Will today never end.

20 August – ‘And now the end is near….’ Rose at the crack of dawn and prepared to leave. Managed to remain fairly cool with my load and got to Peter Pan with time to spare. A pity my hair has gone awol. Got to New York at midday and quickly made my connection to the airport buses. New York, as I remember from before, is a mass of traffic, yellow cabs mainly, and a bustle on the streets. Had quite a tour of the city. Much I had once been through. Funny but it did not look such a frightening place as I feared. Have spent most of my time, since getting to the terminal and taking flight, with eating. I knew it would be that way. Virgin has good facilities and down to earth (ha, ha) staff. Personal TVs with remote control – films, music, comedy, news, Nintendo games. Feeling a bit tired now, only have 4 hours to go so may try to kip. Not sure what is going on in my mind at the moment. I am coming home, but I am not. Strange situation.

Current day thoughts

You remember in Forrest Gump where he started running and just kept going, well Cape Cod felt a bit like that for me, only with walking. I have to say that by the time I came back to England I was the most physically fit I had ever been through the combination of walking, walking, more walking and carrying my backpack around. Exercise without realising you are doing it, I recommend walking. Look after your feet though.

I am not sure about Michael, was his story for real or had he just run out on his luck. Can’t remember what it was he taught me but must have been inspiring at the time. It was funny though walking up to the big house thinking this was where he lodged and then diverting to the garage.
Can only imagine that I had a few bruises on my backside as I bruise very easily. How they got there I cannot remember so can’t have been an interesting story.

The Lake District does have more than its fair share of rain but it much more beautiful than Cape Cod and to be fair one is a coastal region the other is not so there are bound to be differences, apart from the rain.
The cranberry bog, one of the highlights of my trip. I am glad to be here reporting this to you rather than being at the bottom of the bog. I don’t know if anyone saw me up on the hill but if they did I would imagine they could tell I was having a moment and were happy to leave me alone. It really was beautiful.

I think the fishermen I passed on my little jaunt at Provincetown were a little gob-smacked to see anyone walking out that way. I thought I was headed somewhere but it only led to the sea. I can just imagine the conversations they had back home that night…..’well we did see this strange woman walk by…..’ If only satnav had been available back then.

Sorry to stereotype dear store holders but the gaydar was pointing your way.

I think it is brilliant the hostel had access to other establishments in Boston so to not see anyone out on the streets. I never experienced it anywhere else but I imaging most big, popular destinations have the same system. It never bothered me that I would be sharing with two men. Angus was such a nice guy and a great laugh, it is a shame I was so horrid and scarpered early the next day, leaving him behind. We weren’t travelling together and I had myself to think about. I did leave him a note though. When we went into the posh hotel I was in shorts and an old t-shirt and Angus was wearing similar but smarter and he had a hat on with corks hanging around the edge. We looked a sight, which made it all the more fun. We rolled up to the reception desk and Angus said, in his best English accent, ‘Can we have a look at your tariff please’. A tariff was handed over, we looked at it and then walked out again laughing once we got outside.

The underground is exactly the same in London, only now it is me in my own separate world, not that I use the underground much these days, I am a bus person.

The mafia type Bostonian man was curious to know why I was looking up at the buildings, which is why he stopped to talk to me. A hospital administrator rolling in dosh, what a laugh. I am a hospital administrator and I am certainly not rolling in it.

Just a little note on the Boston Tea Party. This is apparently the reason why coffee took on as one of the preferred beverages in the USA.

Missing the whale watch was the most disappointing of things. I would love to do it one day. I often wonder why they always have small boats going out for such a thing, I guess there must be a reason. One flip of the whale’s tale and the boat would be over. The weather turned out to be ok that day after all, which didn’t help in processing the situation.

The outside of the bar they used in Cheers is the only bit of that particular bar they use; the inside is really small. The shots of the characters inside the bar are done in a studio.

My first experience of New York was in 1985. I just remember trying to get out of the city and onto the highway to our destination took what seemed like hours, the congestion was really bad. I imagine it to be the same today.

It was a different me coming home.

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Week 31: 21 August to 27 August
21 August – The journey seemed to be over before it has begun. Virgin are very slow at getting things organised. Eventually we disembarked and headed to the officialities. Waited ages for my luggage – thought perhaps I had had it sent to another country. Feels strange already being back. I just about picked out Kevin in the crowd, he looks so different, very thin and pale. He did not recognise me at first but his face soon lit up when he did. No hugs, no kisses, not even any real conversation. If I appeared a little off I didn’t mean to, but it did feel strange. I think he thought I still hated him. I never did in the first place. Our hotel was minutes away in Hayes, the Hotel Arlington. We only have it for 3 nights, one of which has been used up. Finally we had our cuddle and a kiss, he had to ask me so did not feel so natural.

Drove to London centre for the day, was only about 9am when we got there. Everything feels so alive at the moment. I expect to see $ and to have tax added and ‘Walk’, ‘Don’t Walk’. I should be grabbing leaflets and buying postcards, but I have nothing to do. London seems so small and easy to be in. Did Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Houses of Parliament. I seem to be cutting conversation of the serious kind short and mentioning silly things about what I had done. Things sound so samey at home, so boring. Parking was dear, all day £11, so we came back before it got any worse, I was flagging anyway. We ate out at an Indian restaurant just by coincidence. I did have a postcard from John Sloan, from New Zealand, which cheered me up. Must do some writing soon. Can’t think of much else to write, it feels good being here and it doesn’t, very strange.

22 August – We had an occurrence last night, with some orange juice. The small bottle that Kevin purchased at Fleet services exploded and actually shot about five feet into the air and hit the ceiling and the rest spilt over on the table. Some splatted the bed cover and floor. I have never heard the blast but Kevin did and went back to sleep. Must have looked amazing. Made us chuckle all day anyway. Kevin has gotten back his sense of humour now, and we can lark about like we used to. One thing I forgot to mention that Kevin gave Pablo away. I never meant for him to do that, he doesn’t seem so bothered about it, not up front anyway.

We hardly did anything today, went into Hayes and found out about inoculations and flights and came back to the hotel. Kevin sorted the car out, extra work days off and accommodation. I strolled around the town looking for the ‘buzz’ on the street but it wasn’t there. I guess maybe I have been on a high for the past seven months, strutting confidently around and now I am not. We should have gone sightseeing for something to do. Wandered around a nearby village and ate in one of the pubs. I value the experience of life in preference to possession, you are a richer person for knowledge. You can take your memories with you, but not objects.
23 August – We had ‘Horse Magazine’ at breakfast this morning, (Flora Margarine to you and me), Kevin was obviously not himself. Had a very leisurely start today, full of breakfast ‘n’ stuff.

Went into centre of London again and basically did the same as yesterday. It was cheaper to take the train and more relaxing too. Managed to get back by 9pm. Could go up to Stevenage for a week after Kevin goes back. Seems things are going well up here for the Londoners. Watched TV. Got to bed late.

24 August – A lazy day, very lazy. Did a bit of shopping in New Malden. Feeling a bit low so crashed out all afternoon. Went out for a drink in Wimbledon. Quite a good evening.

25 August – Rainy day, for a while anyway. Actually, I have not done yesterday’s diary yet so will do it after. Also called Maria and got an ok on our accommodation next week, for Kevin too.

Trudged through the rain to the National Gallery and had a wander for a while. I actually got a bit bored, I am not really a good companion for traditional art conversation. I think he should go on his own or take another critic with him. Not doing too bad at the moment, I desperately want to get my finalé trip sorted, getting a bit wayward from it at the moment. However only seen a few familiar faces over the past four days, but no one significant. Just as well send some postcards. Walked to the shops again, had some tea in Leicester Square too and came back fairly late. The smog from the traffic is quite disgusting, more noticeable than in some cities, so we are no better than the rest. Saw the guy from the ‘Mary Whitehouse Experience’, Steve or Hugh is his name.

26 August – Hung around Kingston all day. Not really having many deep thoughts at the moment, just having a laugh. Went to the pictures to see Mask, a little light relief, not a brilliant film but funny in parts. Spending lots of dosh and not thinking about it………..yet. Nice mall in Kingston. Went to a fairground in Ealing, didn’t go on the rides. Watched a man puke on one of them and came back, not very exciting. We stayed up and chatted. Found out a few things about people. Should have left the men to talk I think. They could have had a deeper conversation, next time eh!

27 August – Left midday to search for Stevenage, and what a trial it was. We had no map but new the general direction. That, however, was not the problem. I cannot believe a) how many roads there are to drive down and b) how congested the roads are. Britain is mega over-populated. We never seem to be able to get ourselves organised. After a frustrating escape from Kingston we stopped in Kew for a rest and a pee, whence we found a tree to coopy down by. They had their 50th flower show going on so had a wander round and ‘ad tea and cakes you know. Got to the M25 which was a god-send and after one more sandwich stop got to Maria’s, via her spot-on directions, after 4 hours.

Margaret was here with two friends, they have come to stay with her for the weekend. Eventually Marg and friends left and we were left with the kiddies.

Current day thoughts
I was back in London for the interim, planning the last bit of my journey. It would be easy to say that London was not part of the journey but really it was, I was in my home country but not home.
I never wanted to include much about my relationship in the blog but this section of my journey was partly about that. Have edited some but couldn’t avoid it all.

I am not sure what I thought my relationship would be like when I came back, the same probably, but time away changes the both of you and so a relationship can never be exactly the same as it was before. No amount of Polyfilla can cover over all the cracks. We soon relaxed though and regained some of the chemistry. I do think that relationships are stifling and that as individuals we achieve more for ourselves when alone.
Every so often I de-clutter and get rid of stuff. Stuff that might come in handy one day but never does. The older I get the less I want in terms of material possession. If my parents are reading this, please de-clutter, we don’t want all of your stuff.

Menus can be written in very fancy script font and the one in our Hayes hotel was like that. Anyone could be confused into thinking Flora Margarine was Horse Magazine. What would that even be as a food item! The orange juice incident was funny though – something to do with the room temperature and gas trapped in the bottle and build up of pressure. Glad we didn’t get the cleaning bill for that one.

We stayed with some friends in New Malden for a few days. Really nice to just be allowed to crash at short notice. Little did I know that New Malden would feature in my life again a few years later when I ended up living there for about a year and a half. It was also the place I from which I launched my next big travelling experience – more of that in time. So many people we knew went to London to live, guess that is where money was to be made. And here I am now living it – except for the big money. You get out what you put in. I didn’t put in enough when I was younger and now I am getting older and too tired and a little desperate. What career did I want to get back to?
It is true what I said about this country being over-populated, all squashed in, we can’t breathe and after all these years we are still no closer to being able to cope with a bad winter.

My lovely family in Stevenage were more than hospitable, I am sure I outstayed my welcome. I had been to Stevenage before but when I was younger, so no huge memories of the place. Much more to come from Stevenage. If Stevenage is reading this, I loved you then and I still love you now.  You have know idea how much the experience influenced my life.

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Week 32: 28 August to 3 September

28 August – Nice comfortable night, the girls are good in the morning, but once they know you are awake that is it. Can be a bit trying.
We went food shopping in Sainsbury’s and started to walk around the town, but got cold and came back. They all went to a party in the afternoon, so got us some free time. We had a snooze in the dining room for a while. When they came back a walk was in order. I don’t mind kiddies but they do purposely try everyone’s patience. Ended up in the park and a big park it is too, lots of activity. People walking dogs, boating, wind-surfing, fishing, kiddies park. Stayed out for an hour or two and returned back.
The girls eventually go to bed and we are too knackered to do anything much. This is a good warning for when I finally come back.

29 August – Bank holiday, a stay in lazy day. Too tired anyway. Margaret came round with some lunch bits, but she went off. Not really much to write about. Dinner was excellent, roast chicken with all the trimmings. The girls never seemed to go to bed, so we went out for chocolate, they were still up when we got back.

Only a couple more days left together, it has gone so quick.

30 August – Happy birthday mummy. A very hectic organising sort of day. Got off fairly swiftly.

Decided Lunn Poly is a crap place, they are not very competitive or helpful. Thomas Cook came up trumps as usual. Booked my flight after a long wait and have put in for a hotel for three nights. So tiring. The best bit next, the doctors surgery. They told me I couldn’t have my jab done here, I would have to go back to my doctor in Salisbury. Pushed it and got a result for Friday morning. Still have the malaria tablets to sort out. To Letchworth next to collect the visa form, nice place, better than Stevenage. No go on the hotel so she will try a dearer one, surprise, surprise.

Well knackered tonight. I think Kev is getting a bit narkey about me going again, but not so much as last time. He is not having much of a holiday.
31 August – Up with the lark, thankfully the girls were still in bed so we had a smooth getaway. Parked for free in Barnet and trained to London centre. Peeing with rain but who cares, I was in my shorts too. Went straight to India House and found, surprisingly enough, a shortish queue. Asked if they could post it back tomorrow but Mr Wiggy said ‘No’ which is a real pain because it means we have to come back tomorrow, can’t pick it up until 5pm. Kevin will have to drop me there and to home whilst I catch the train back. Have spent so much money on absolutely nothing this week, Kevin too, he has been really good, a little bit whingey with his back, could be because I am going off again. Wandered around the city again for hours, stopping for refreshment every so often. Thought Kevin would want to rest more but he plugged on. Had a good lunch in Pizza Hut, saw a punch-up and the best bit, Kevin nearly had his wallet pinched. It fell out of his jacket and a guy swiped it before you could turn around. Luckily Kevin spotted him and chased after for a confrontation. The guy eventually owned up and handed it back, but instead of Kevin walking away and saying thank you, he gave the guy £5 because he was afraid of any violence. Silly boy, my hero. I think Kevin likes wandering around London but I hate it, it is so smogged up and congested you can’t breathe. Is the worst city I have found for that. The journey back was smooth apart from the erratic driving. Sorted my stuff out, seems I am taking hardly anything with me.

1 September – Had a mega lie in, Kevin had back ache again, had breakfast at lunch time. In one way it was good that the girls had gone out because we could get on, however they were not back before we left, so could not say goodbye to Kevin.

We drove into the centre of London today rather than parking and taking the train. Was a nightmare navigating, but we got there in the end. No time to do anything except get straight to the India House. Glad we did go in because the queue was starting to build. Once 5pm came we soon got moving, not hassles with the issue of the visa, and we were out of there. Wiggy was serving but not me thank goodness. Didn’t want to get back to Stevenage too late so didn’t have much time left to spend with Kevin. We had a bite to eat before heading to King’s Cross. The train left 10 minutes after we arrived. Not such a bad farewell as before, it was different this time and will not be such a long stint. I did get a bit of a lump in my throat but held it back. We will phone each other before I leave.

Journey back to Stevenage was smooth, the only hassle was having to pay 85p for the five minute journey back home. Britain is a rip-off. The IRA have started a cease fire as from today, which is unnerving in itself, so will be glad to leave again for a while.

2 September – As usual my bowels were well and truly emptied this morning, still, if I want to go and do these crazy things I have to put up with the nasty things. Margaret came to pick me up and carted me off, no time to sit and think about it, I was in there. Ended up having two jabs, hepatitis and meningitis and, because the first one was ok I had the other one done in the same place, the big soft bum, in each cheek. Amazingly I managed to remain on my feet, but was glad to get into the fresh air. Had to go with the British Airways choice of malaria tablets, £17 worth.

Came back to the mad house. Took the girls up to the shops for sweets, there were amazingly good. Just lazed for the rest of the day, after some exercise.

3 September – Emma’s wedding day if all still ok, hope the weather held out for her, for her mother’s sake.

Got out of the house as quick as I could. Had lunch in BHS first to set me up. Had a good look around the shopping centre, quite a lot crammed in, but not such a large choice. Got all the bits and pieces I needed. The ticket is in but my hotel voucher is not. Tried to find a present for Maria’s birthday but not sure. I still have to go back next week so will sort it out then.
Everything was fine when I got back. Margaret came around to babysit. Richard and Maria went off to their party and peace was abound.
Bought a joint of beef for Sunday lunch, nearly died at the price.

Current day thoughts

I think it must always be a bit of a novelty to children when someone new comes to stay, they pour so much attention onto you and if you are not used to children it can be a bit much after a while. I can only imagine what it must be like as a constant for parents.

Having worked in the NHS for a while at that point in time I was aware that you could go to another GP surgery if staying in the area and register as a temporary patient. I wouldn’t normally push an appointment for a needle but I needed to be covered for my exotic pursuit.

Mr Wiggy was not his real name, I don’t know what his real name was but he was definitely wearing a wig. No offence to wig wearers, they can look nice if adorned properly. I suppose it was really quite good to be able to get a visa processed in a day so shouldn’t complain.

When abroad you spend money without thinking too much about it but when you are back in your own country you complain about how expensive everything is. I guess that is because you have a better idea at home as to the value of everything in relation to what is being charged.
It’s not that I didn’t sympathise with Kevin having a bad back, I was just tired of having to hear about it every minute of every day. The bad back started a long time before I commenced my trip so had had enough of it at that point. To come back after 7 months to the same thing just grated on me a bit. I appreciate that people have ills and sometimes it can dominate life but I don’t want to hear about it all the time. I have problems but I don’t need to let everyone know about it. I take my pills and just get on with living my life. It is how it is and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself.

I don’t think so much now about London being smoggy. I am aware of it and it is my choice to live here so have to put up with it. With global warming being such an issue, it comes to light that many other cities are the same.
Wow, 85p to get back to Stevenage, my finances have never recovered since that time.

Inoculations day. I hate needles. I have a tendency to faint when I have a needle stuck in me. It goes back to school days and queuing up to have the rubella injection. The girl in front on me had hers done and the needle snapped of in her arm. That was it, and I have had a needle phobia ever since. I work myself up into such frenzy about it. I do find having an appointment to attend acts as a great colonic irrigator. Sorry to share that with you but now you know. The backside is quite a good place for injections.

I do remember the sweet shop run. I said the girls could choose from the pick and mix. One child was calm and filled half a bag whilst the other was a little frenzied and ended up with a bag brimming over the top. The poor shop keeper then had to sort the bags out to price them up correctly. It was quite funny to observe.

Emma was someone I used to work with. I don’t know how everything worked out back then but I have been reacquainted with her life in recent years and she is now dealing with more sad times of a similar nature and I wish all the best for her.

Don’t remember when beef got so pricey. It used to be we had beef all the time and a chicken was a treat for Sunday lunch. Now it is the other way around.

So much to beef on about with this country.

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Week 33 – 4 September to 10 September

4 September – Wouldn’t be surprised if Maria had a hangover this morning, she was full of the joys when they got home last night.

The day dragged, should have gone out for some fresh air. Richard stayed for dinner, very nice roast too. Nothing much else happened today. I went to bed with a stinking headache. Phoned Kevin in the evening, he is missing me already and is looking forward to moving which is good. Will be good to finally settle in our own place.

5 September – Went to town with everyone and did some more bits. Should have gone on my own. Will have to go back in tomorrow anyway. Maria is being stubborn with her birthday present, looks like a voucher job.
Margaret came over, learnt something today, she is into the tarots, has a set of her own. She phoned a tarot number and the guy on the other end was uncannily accurate. Maybe it is Nanny’s side of the family I get my character from. It is nice to know that I have someone else on my wavelength. Not sure what tomorrow will bring, school day begins. I think Margaret and the rest are worried about me going to India on my own, they probably can’t understand why I would want to do it.

6 September – Happy birthday Ian. A last mad rush around town doing things. Think I chose pretty good with Maria’s birthday present, got some vouchers for River Island and she likes a dress in there.

I have noticed since I have been back in the country that I am not interested in any news or politics in Britain. I watched ‘Coming to America’ and felt sad and reflective when I saw a subway station, my heart nor my head are here at the moment.

Maureen and Margaret came around to babysit whilst Maria and I went out. It was touch and go with the pubs as Maria has not been out much in the past few years. The first one was ok, should have stayed there, the time was going fast and pub-crawling wastes time. The next two pubs can definitely be crossed off of the list. One had football in one corner and pool in the other, we spent our time there with pool cues sticking in our earholes. The last one, you needed a knife to cut through the smoke, even Maria noticed how bad it was. She spotted a mate of hers and disappeared for a while, but returned with them. The other guy with different coloured iris’ has been a bit of a traveller himself and has done India. Was quite good talking to him, he did not seem to think I would have problems coping on my own.

7 September – How I managed to navigate myself around the world I will never know, getting to anywhere in the London area is a nightmare. Walked with the kiddies to school this morning. Waited for the washing to finish, later than I wanted, and left with Maria. Nearly had a tear then.
Thomas Cook kept me waiting for ages, all they needed was a fax. Posted my letter and sped for the train, waiting around after that was quite minimal, got to Hayes around 3-3.30pm, had to shelter there from the miserable rain. So hungry I had to eat first, got directions to the hotel and arrived around 4.00pm, just after. Back to being all hot and bothered again. Could not deposit my cash so will use it instead. Kevin not in at 6pm, shame because the phone box was in a quiet place. Eventually reached him but could not hear a thing because of traffic, he will try the hotel later. As luck would have it the phones were down, so I had to go out again and phone. Gave up in the end and hoped Kevin could reach me later. Too tired to bath or do anything constructive so got into bed early. The phones were still out so put a ‘Do not disturb’ notice on the door. Will phone him in the morning from Heathrow.

One thing I forgot to mention today was the ticket check lady at King’s Cross. I don’t think she knew how to speak, let alone acknowledge my presence, thanks for nothing lady. And I was just beginning to think how polite and helpful the English are.

8 September – Thunder, lightning, rain and the infamous fire alarm greeted my morning. Had a nice bath, sod the hair, leisurely cup of tea etc. Breakfast was delivered at 6am with a message that Kevin had rung last night. Had quite a nice little chat for a change before saying goodbye, will miss him more this time I think. Nearly left the passport behind, clever girl.
First flight was quick, only 1½ hours and they still managed to fit a meal in, amazing. Upset my co-passenger because I would not move for her friend. Would not have been much hassle, I was just not in the mood. The next flight is 50 minutes later than scheduled time, so hope this does not mean much later arrive in Delhi. We will be an hour late, the hotel should still be operating. Had a few reservations again before take-off, similar to the beginning of the journey in January, but not nearly as many. Once the flight was under way I relaxed and started to get excited about where I was going, can’t be as bad as all that. Give it a couple of weeks and I will be well into it. You can tell the ones who are going home, for sun, sea and booze, business and the bum arounds. Not sure exactly what group I fit into, midway between the booze and bum I think. Got a little concerned with the turbulence at one point, thank goodness we had a good film on as a distraction, ‘Maverick’. Soon be food again, then I can clean up and spray the repellent. Landing was delayed by 15 minutes due to strong winds.
I am not sure whether or not my book is always 100% correct. My initial reaction to India was to have been the smell, however, I could not smell anything so out of the ordinary. Secondly the taxis must have put their fares up by 400%, my fare, with pre-paid cab, was to be 510 rupees. I only changed a £5 because I did not expect to pay more than 200 rupees. Some people were worse off than me. I could have argued but it was 2.30 in the morning and I was knackered, I would pay the rest at the hotel. Luckily the reception changed a £20 and I was able to pay the rest. I knew the fare was extortionate and that tipping taxi drivers was uncustomary so a tip was out of the question. The guy gave a practiced sorrowful look at the ground, but I was unmoved. My room is good, bedroom and lounge with nice bathroom, if a little hot. Made sure the room was secure, ordered breakfast and went to sleep, eventually.

9 September – Happy birthday Maria and Kevin Neave. Was rudely awoken by room service, I had not put a time for breakfast, decided to eat in the dining room. Continental type brekkie, went down ok, sad excuse for cornflakes however. Noticed coming here last night the cows roaming the streets and a crowd of down and outs, I suppose they would be glad it was warm for them. Fiddled and faddled about for a bit and took a deep breath before facing this new and worryingly exciting country. I think losing weight will be easy here, movements have never been so easy.

Got a cab to the railway station, thought there would be a lot of hustle and bustle, but not. Lots of bodies about though. Haggled with the taxi driver, managed to get him down to 15 rupees over the meter reading, felt good about it and sounded determined. Found my way to the tourist booking office eventually, I appear to be walking briskly today so as to not look lost and vacant. As this is not the height of the tourist season, I suppose there are not so may foreigners, the queue seemed minimal. Settled on a second class Indrail Pass, which I now see to be a possible error. Unfortunately, I miscalculated my expenses to start and opted for the cheaper alternative. Also made a reservation following a quick lesson in railway timetables. A young western couple obviously thought me an expert and continually sought my assistance.

I then wandered into what I presume is Old Delhi, where a busy street market was bustling. I felt conscious of my paleness, hardly another westerner to be seen. I was very hot and the wallet next to my skin did not help, however I felt safe from pickpockets. Still the smell did not offend and if I trod in anything I knew not. A few keepers were persistent, but not troublesomely so, I pondered a few options on clothing, but declined. I did however purchase a pair of sandals for 150rupees, possibly a little OTT but still a bargain. I began to wander towards the smaller streets and decided to turn back. I wanted to find Connaught Place, sorry to say but I found a (spotted more like) a Wimpy in the centre and I desperately wanted a drink. My orientation was such that I soon became lost. If you look around the streets you see such a diverse population. Beggars, well-to-do, every day sorts, entrepreneurs, sleaze bags, traditionalists. I followed a man carrying sticks on his head, he was dressed simply but authentically. On the whole I see modern India as not so bad, just a rip-off sometimes. I was walking along a side-walk and passed a toilet (in the loosest sense of the word). I veered around, but unfortunately a slab was loose and splash down occurred. I had shit all over my foot and up my leg. Wiping as much off as I could the trousers dried in no time and I felt a little more respectable, if smelly. This is India. I asked a policeman for directions and was surrounded by little people, eager to listen. I suspect some were hoping to guide me for a few rupees. Gave in and hopped aboard a cycle rickshaw this time. They all take the long route I am sure. I have not made an Indian happy yet with my tips, just about right. No happy smiling eyes in gratitude. Driving, be it auto or manual, is a first come first serve basis and signalling is by way of honking the horn to tell you to get out of the way, or die. I soon learned, when walking, to dodge my way around such obstacles. After a short stroll around Connaught Place I found an Indian fast food outlet and dived in for refreshment. The tea and coke went down a treat, could not face eating though. The more exclusive shops are here and I imagine only the locals want to buy, westerners would go for cheaper authentic styles. By now I was fast growing weary, so I got some postcards and hopped into an auto rickshaw. My driver was keen to take me to a friend’s emporium but I persuaded him to come straight back to the hotel. Again no happy smile for tipping.

So glad to get back and clean up, Delhi is high in air pollution. Went into what I thought was the hotel restaurant, turns out to be independent. Had a nice meal, not a spicy one. Nearly walked out without paying, I gave my room number thinking it would be charged to me, oops! Tried to be with it and write but fatigue overtook me. Forgot to mention we have an in-house astrologer at the hotel, interesting one.

10 September – Decided this hotel is a bit of a rip-off in some ways, I think they imagine anyone who stays here is rich, well I have a budget to stick to and if I do not wish to tip I won’t. Breakfast in the room today, was quite hungry too. Get very hot at night and sweat buckets, but so far no bad tum.
Walked to my first destination, somehow took a wrong road but not so far from my route. One auto-rickshaw guy tried to persuade me to take a ride by telling me that my route was blocked and also very dangerous. Never heard so much twaddle in my life, there were so many military persons around I felt safe as houses. Besides which the streets were as quiet as anything. Arrived at the National Museum and paid the huge entrance fee of 50 rupees (1p). All men work here, fortunately hordes of foreigners were around, otherwise I would not have felt safe. The tours were one hour long and the Japanese took advantage, sounded strange to hear an Indian speaking Japanese. I did not join one because I like to take my time to look and learn. Spent two hours in all. Basically, most things are of the same nature, stone and bronze statues. However, the amazing think is the dates of them, some 1st and 2nd century in amazing condition. There were even pots dating B.C. The ground floor few and the second none. Bit like the hotel, some floors being done out for the tourist season. Felt like an exhibit myself and I know I looked a mess.

On my way to India Gate I was side-tracked by a large building to my left, so wandered up the road. Was amused to see a cow attached to a lawn mower in a nearby park. Nice looking cow too.

The buildings turned out to be government with the president’s residence at the rear. Nothing to see inside but mighty impressive on the outer. The British built it.

I was met by a Sikh auto rickshaw driver who offered to show me Delhi for a good price. I intended to do some sightseeing so took him up on his offer. First I went to a temple, not sure of its name, I expected only to stop and look with a brief commentary, but there was more.

I was taken into the grounds and led to a shoe removing booth, after which I had to wash my feet, they needed it anyway. At the top of the stairs I was asked to wear a turban (a piece of cloth ties around my head) out of respect. I stood by the door and watched the people pray. Very ornate decor.

For people who hang out here free meals are available during the day, also a marquee type thing, very hospitable. He gave me a bracelet and one for Kevin and wished us health and happiness. Next to India Gate, a massive memorial to the war dead and a very popular spot full of street vendors selling ‘Kwality’ ice cream.

I did notice with the postcard sellers that they are very pushy with foreigners and not with natives. I desperately needed a drink so persuaded my man to take me to the Wimpy avoiding any other attractions for the time being. He promised to return in 2 hours to take me home. Had drinks and ice cream. The loos were a bit unsavoury, no loo paper and no evidence of a bowl with water. Lucky I had tissue.

Whilst wandering around Connaught Place I cottoned onto some sort of scam. Friendly men, well turned out, approach women and start to chatter, usually starting with the area you are in. They ask what country you are from and amazingly they just happen to be going there next month. A city is chosen as the destination. What else they offer I do not know. I showed little interest to the first so he said goodbye, the second barely got the first sentence out before I cold-shouldered him. I wandered a bit further and spotted one of them chatting up two unsuspecting victims.

Bought Amy’s present from a bizarre, not sure I really like it now, a two piece outfit. Have no idea what to buy her so will have to do. I met my driver as arranged and he took me back to my hotel, the choice of payment up to me, think he did quite well. I have his number should I need his services again. Nice man.

Ate in the coffee shop tonight, paid even more than before, hate this place. Did learn something, any room service or charge to the room is met by an extra 10% charge, so best to pay up front. Can imagine what the non-air-conditioned rooms are like, it is still too hot even with it.

Current day thoughts

So, after an enlightening catch up over a couple of weeks in Stevenage I finally made it to India. I don’t even remember taking 2 flights to get there. Where did I touch down after the first one? I remember the flight into India quite sparse of passengers, so was able to lie across 2 or 3 seats to try and sleep. Never been on a plane before with so much space available. I sprayed myself with insect repellent on the plane – never been so prepared in my life. This really was the most exotic place I had ever visited I didn’t know what to expect. I remember trying to get onto the bus into Delhi centre which dropped people off at hostels/hotels but it was full, which is why I took a taxi. I suppose it really wasn’t that expensive in GBP terms – just over £10, but I was in India now so had to look at it differently. I so wish I had video footage of the cab driver when I paid up the rest of the fare. His face was a picture and his acting skills very hammed up. I am sure he got a generous share of the takings.

If there is one thing I can say about hotel in India, they do like to wake you up early in the morning. There is more to come on that one. The breakfast menu in my hotel was filled with things I would be familiar with, however the spelling left a lot to be desired. Cornflakes were Cornflacks. To be fair they may well have been Cornflacks as they did not resemble the Cornflakes I had grown accustomed to.

I haggled with a cab driver over the price – go me! I was obviously more confident than I imagined and sounded quite on top of things, trying to blend in despite the obvious.

One of my first impressions of India was the amount of people who just lay around. I don’t know whether they just had nothing to do or because it was too hot to do anything. Such a vastly populated country. Travelling off season can be a better experience as all things run as normal, you catch people off-guard, see things how they really are, whereas during the tourist season it changes as more overseas visitors are expected, prices go up, etc, etc. I guess it is the same in most places. I will touch on this another time to make my point. I am not sure whether booking things like rail passes before you leave home is cheaper or not, however it seemed a lot more when in Delhi. I thought I had made an error with the second class rail pass but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I must have looked very efficient if someone asked my advice after one day of being in India.

I carried all of my valuables in a money belt, which I strapped around my body every day. I had money, cards, passport in and it rarely left my side. I got used to it in the end and don’t remember carrying a bag with me, although I probably did at some point. No thieves were going to take advantage of me.

My expensive sandals were around £3 in total and they served me well.
Yes the western world exists in exotic places, even back then, Wimpey, MacDonald’s, they are all there, the USA building its empire. If I go to another country I like to sample the authentic foods but I guess the younger generation likes junk food where ever you are.

The good thing about a hot country is clothing does dry very quickly. I wish though I had been wiser as to where toilets were likely to be situated. A lesson learned.

The children were generally fascinated by foreigners, especially the entrepreneurial amongst them. Any gesture for a rupee.

I am not a great tip giver for services, I believe that people choose to do the jobs they do so why should I give them more for a service they are being paid to do. I did get it right with some rickshaw drivers though. The cycle rickshaw especially did not specify an amount to pay before the journey, they liked to leave it up to the passenger at the end. Would I ever get a smile from one of them?

I didn’t go to see the in-house astrologer.

Who knew that 25 years on I would be sweating buckets through the night again. Bless the menopause.

I will say this now, although I may mention it again at some point – I never experienced a bad stomach in the entire 2 months I spent in India. It was one of the things above all that I expected.

Just being outside in Delhi was an experience and educational in itself but I still felt the need to dive into a museum and check out some of the sights.
Some animals were then, I am not sure about now, used for working purposes, such as the cow pulling a lawn mower. It might have been an ox, I can’t remember. Cows are sacred animals in India so surprised one would be used in that way.

My lovely Sikh guide only charged 80 rupees, about a British pound for the day, a bargain. I may have given him a little more.

Toilet paper is not or was not the preferred method of cleaning oneself in India, although I am sure more households use it now. The preferred method was using your hand with a jug of water, and it is actually very effective. I was told that toilet paper was very expensive so I took my own rolls. Best only to have needed to pee when out and about.

I remember the men wandering around Connaught Place trying to chat up the women. I think maybe I was expecting to be hassled as a woman travelling on my own so did not allow myself to be taken in by them, although some were deep in conversation. They clearly had other motives in mind. This was at a time when a lot of foreigners were being kidnapped in the north of India. I am glad not to have gone further north than Delhi. Some of those held never made it home again. I always feel blessed to have made it home safely.

I understand from Amy that she still has the outfit I bought for her birthday.

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Week 34 – 11 September to 17 September

11 September – An interesting day. Hung around the hotel until noon, pinched one of the sheets to cover any undesirable bedding. Wanted to get away quick before room service noticed. Nearly had a heart attack when presented with my bill, they were not aware that I had already paid my room beforehand. Fortunately I had my proof. Got the taxi to the station an hour (ha ha) in advance. After a struggle with my luggage I moved inside. Only the thrill seekers seem to want to help. Wanted to check at enquiries but the queue jumpers got my back up. Was told the train would now leave at 1.45pm so plonked myself on the platform and waited. Have to admit my nerves were starting to tangle a bit. Amazingly enough I was spared any hassle. So hot sat around waiting. I imagined everyone to be deeply religious on a Sunday, obviously not. You could tell the regular travellers, those with bed rolls on the ground, they obviously like to rest before the train comes, either that or they know that it will be late anyway. At 2.30pm the train arrived, but where do I embark, I have my carriage number and cannot tell which one it is. I wandered up and down, no porter to help. Thankfully two knights in shining armour arrived. Then and only then was I able to realise where the carriage was marked.

Found my seat quite easy, luckily it is an end one, the luggage was in the way a bit but who cares, no one else did. I have never sweated as much as I have in the past 3 days. The journey was 3½ hours long and went smoothly. Thankfully fans were operating above and the windows let plenty of air in. Every type of person imaginable was in 2nd class pushing for seats, many sitting on top of one another. Frequently food and drink vendors went by and I did admire the Indians knack of being able to successfully eat a meal in their cramped conditions. We even had a busker at one point, who I sadly ignored. I could spend my whole time handing out gratuities. Was able to communicate with two young lads, who told me which stop to get off at, otherwise I would have had no idea, there is no system here, you just have to know. Even one of the lads was unable to give me any pointers on this one.

My luggage still intact I got off the train and was immediately engulfed by rickshaw touts. Pissed me off immensely. I was unable to shake them off despite my pleas and they followed me all the way to reservations, which happened to be closed until tomorrow. I finally told my disciples that I was quite capable of making my own mind up and would they please leave me alone. I was rid of them at last, but only for a minute. I chose my hotel and selected my drivers and we were away. I know I paid them too much. They tried the old trick of trying to make out they knew better hotels but I did not give in. If I did not know any different I would say that someone had fore-warned them of my arrival. Feel so dirty I do not know if I will ever feel clean again.

Passed many rural communities getting here on the train, the India I imagined. Agra looks a bit scary with its maze of tiny streets, each pale face I noticed had no smiley face but a stern wary one, I know how they feel. At the hotel Sidartha I was shown rooms before choosing, I selected the cheapest. The service nice and friendly. The room itself was nothing to speak of but the bed linen looked ok. It was dirty, desperately in need of a lick of paint, had bars on the window. A prison cell would be more inviting. The toilet and shower, both working, except they shared the same cramped space and the same floor space. No toilet paper just a jug, glad I have some. However, despite its appearance it did not smell so was reasonably happy. We have monkeys outside, a nice courtyard and a view of the Taj Mahal. Was able to get cheap food here and cool mineral water. Will have a restless night I am sure. Other foreigners are here too.

12 September – Highs and lows. Hate Agra for its pushiness and high costs, will be glad to leave tomorrow. The only nice place is the Taj Mahal. My taxi was waiting in the morning. I should have stayed in all day to teach them a lesson. The main man was there from yesterday but another was to drive. My mind was on the 60 rupees for the day. Off we went to the station, I was taken to the Cantonment and not the Fort as I requested and, on the way, was pushed to take the bus to Jaipur. They said that the train was not going due to track improvements. However, I made it to the station. The queue was not so long, it just did not move, for hours it seemed. I know not what sort of accommodation I have been allocated, my reservation form was practically chucked at me with an illegible scrawl. All I know is that the train leaves Red Fort at midnight. That done, I went to the post office to deposit my letter. The telephone office was incapable of arranging a reverse charge call and it would cost 87 rupees a minute to phone, will have to see about that one.

Now for sight-seeing with yet another guide, the elder brother, who has a tariff of 100 rupees for the day. I challenged to 60 rupees to no avail. Saw the Red Fort first, only 2 rupees to enter.

The main of the fort is now a ruin with a small part still occupied by the army. It is a huge place and I imagine very beautiful when it was up and running. It appears that Shah has built up most of this city.

The British had their spell here too and a memorial to one of the officers stands in a courtyard. One thing you can guarantee with the sights is the upkeep of surrounding gardens. The ornamental architecture of the Fort is quite lovely, much time and pride is put into their work and probably much labour.

It was nice to be able to stroll at a relaxed pace away from the narrow dusty streets, very peaceful. The natives like to have their picture taken with people, presumably as a memory of the holiday. I and two other girls could have made a mint out of our generosity.

My taxi was there at a pre-arranged time, I was a little late. Now the plot thickened. The Taj would be very hot at this time of day (noon to mid-afternoon), so they would take me to see some handicrafts – a scam if ever I saw one. We had marbling with precious stone and mineral inlay designs, handwoven carpets and jewellery of the expensive kind. In each I was shown (except the jewels) the making of the item, fascinating and informative and then, with no obligation, to buy of course. Was shown the shop, each were very polite, offering refreshment along with the patter, no obligation to buy, ha ha, and I gave my story as honestly as I could to get the message across that I was not buying at present and I could not afford their prices no matter how reasonable. They think they have you in their hands, but not so me. The rickshaw drivers were annoyed a little that I did not buy, they get a small cut of sales plus 10 rupees anyway for taking you there, which they do not admit to, and when they do they insist it is only petrol money. I was invited back to the jewellers in the evening, not sure what was planned there, not going to anyway. I was not taken to the Taj as it was still too hot and so was dropped back at the hotel. The Taj was only a minute walk so I would transport myself later. My deal was inclusive of the Taj and back again and because I did not get there I docked 20 rupees, paying 80. My driver made the mistake of asking me to sign a book that others had done too. A few days ago a day trip was 60 rupees, specified on the paper, however when pointed out I was met by a much stunned guide, who insisted that he had only gone to the Taj and back to the hotel, like yeah. No protestation was made so I quickly got out and into the hotel.

I keep reading my book over and over to get my facts right. The thing with the carpet man was that £80 would cost £115 come the tourist season. I learned a lot to my advantage from these people.

At 4.45pm I headed to the Taj, at this time 2 rupees, 15 minutes later would be 100 rupees. The sunrise and sunsets are the best time to see it and so the money grabbing government get their nose in. From Haley’s description I was expecting a lot of hassle and beggars leading up to the Taj, but I saw none of it. The shops were neat and tidy and all was clean, perhaps she got caught in the streets. Inside is the most peaceful of places I have seen so far, and very clean.

The area demands a certain respect and only tourists or laid-back locals come in. To start, as it was hot, I sat just inside the entrance gate to collect myself and to feast my eyes. I sat next to an English chappy for a brief conversation. Leading up to the Taj are water gardens and luckily the ponds were full, so a reflection could be seen. The Taj itself is quite a splendid building, perfectly symmetrical, made of marble with beautiful precious stone inlaid patterns. Designed by the Shah Jahan and built for his wife, it was a most extravagant project.

Walking slowly up to the Taj I could notice how people stared at me, perhaps because I am a woman on my own. I suddenly started to feel very regal and privileged to be here. However, maybe the heat or just another building, I was unmoved by the symbolic stature of the Taj, it did not strike me as being one of the seven wonders of the world. It was cool now so removal of shoes was ok, my feet look disgusting, dirty, blistered. Close up you can see the intricate detail.

I always thought the roof to be covered in gold, I must be thinking of somewhere else. You can go inside, which surprised me, guess it is just an attraction now, no religious ceremonies are performed here. The Shah’s wife was entombed here and was solely for her, however, due to the failed attempt to build his own smaller Taj, the Shah is also buried here next to his wife. Too big a building for a burial tomb, the money could have been spent more wisely. A few would be entrepreneurs sat down beside me, tricksters I think. They wanted to pinch my belongings so I did not dare let them look.

I then sat back by the gate and watched the sunset, after the usual photo shoot. Nothing spectacular really tonight.

I found myself bitten a lot whilst sat around, too late for the repellent, I only hope I have escaped disease. Too tired to write, I find it a chore at the moment, despite my many thoughts, my mind wandering and it takes me ages to put anything down. I am impressed with how my system is standing up to things.

13 September – Hardly did a thing today. I breakfasted later and got myself together for leaving tonight. I had to pay full rate for the use of the room today despite not sleeping over, but then I expected to. Have noticed how many hippy types are staying in the area. The main of the natives dress nicely and we foreigners try to live in rags, but still we are looked upon as being rich. I do feel overdressed sometimes. Extra hot today. By the time I gathered myself it was 11am.

I had a wander around the streets to start with, looking for a birthday card for Amy, only postcards were for sale. The streets are narrow and dirty and the buildings are shabby. However, you get much less hassle on these streets than in Delhi, it was a pleasure to be able to do this. Of course, you have the odd beckon to a shop but no more. The youngsters make me laugh with their selling techniques, they learn business early, I do not think anyone goes to school here. I navigated my way to the south gate of the Taj but would have to go to the east for a ticket. I purchased some water, checking the seal first, not a common name so fingers crossed. On the way back to the east gate I passed a memorial hospital. I thank my lucky stars I am well, it looked a hole, if in fact it was still running.

My hotelier asked me why I was so quiet. I told him it was my nature. This trip has not so much made me a noisy person as a stronger person. Travelling alone you gain a certain tranquil ambiance about you, I have no need to create noise. I forgot about a padlock and key.

I entered the Taj grounds again, stopping at the post office, they only really deal in letters, he was unable to tell me how much my parcel would cost to send, I’ll leave it until Jaipur. I sat in the shade to write my diary in the cool peace, not so many people at present. I was joined by an Italian who was waiting for his friends to return, we had a nice chat before he went up to see the Taj, his friends then babysat his video camera but were less communicative. The sun was creeping round so moved again and continued my diary, much to the interest of the locals. I sat for may be three hours and then took one last stroll up to the Taj, it was so hot though.

I did not go right up to it but around the edge so as not to have to take my shoes off. A beggar boy gave me a flower, a dead one, in hope for money. These children will never grow up to be strong men and women if they beg all their young lives. I looked out onto the river and saw the cows wallowing in the cool mud and young boys swimming in the river. I did envy them the cool water. Back in the shade by the gates I sat next to a local elder gentleman. He has never been out of the area, the westerners must fascinate them. He wanted to show me around Agra, which would have been nice, but for the fact that I have seen much of it anyway. I was in the main city, the outskirts were an afterthought. I was not sure if he was waiting to take me to a shop he or one of his family owns. I declined, I had things to do in any case.

Tried to sleep at the hotel for a couple of hours, very difficult, everything sticks to you and is most uncomfortable. I hate it when the electric goes out. Put the citronella on early tonight before dinner. Am trying to contact Kevin, is difficult though. Dinner lasted longer than usual, I had a German girl sat chatting with me, typical as I wanted to rest. Got my head down for 1½ hours, but did not really sleep, my mind was on getting up again.
At 11pm I was ready to go, no rickshaws though. I was led up the street to find one. Found out then that two others were going too, so went back and waited. Their rickshaw did not turn up as arranged, so we all travelled together on what would probably be one of our most memorable moments in India. Three, plus luggage, piled onto a cycle rickshaw, not the sturdiest of ones either. Was a bit worried to say the least, did not seem a safe form of transport, so heavily loaded. However, off we went with the promise of no bumps. It was such a beautiful star lit night and the only sound you could hear was the spinning wheels of our rickshaw. The streets were virtually deserted, the moon shone and a gentle cool night breeze fanned us as we glided along. We were stopped by two friendly policemen who claimed it was illegal to cycle rickshaw. After a bit of friendly chit chat we went on our way. I did feel sorry for the cycle and the man, so much strain we put on him and up hills too. Huge tip paid to him for the service.

And so we wait for the train. Midnight came but the train never, so we knew we were in for the duration.

14 September – To start the train would be 2½ late. My companions decided to wait on the platform in the cool, I sat in the waiting room with two English (sorry one was Scottish) guys. I do envy the Indians ability to bunk down under any circumstances and to sleep too. I guess conditions are part and parcel of life here so they do not notice. This being the coolest part of the day, a lot of activity was abound inside and outside. Fraser was unwell, he has been for a short while now. In fact at one point he used one of his needles from his medical kit to have a blood test done, to see if he had caught malaria, fortunately he had not. His weight was non-existent and he looked awful. I tried to sleep but no good, someone had to stay awake to watch the luggage. I know now I have too much with me, have a feeling clothes will be off-loaded soon. Using the toilet paper up will be good too. Every hour the arrival of the train moved on an hour, but sleep was still impossible.

Finally, after an abrupt force feeding of sickly sweet tea, the train arrived at 5am. I felt like shit and was dirty, sweaty, everything. Turns out I did not have a reservation at all, a porter took my luggage and carted me off to a carriage he then demanded 20 rupees. I gave him 5 rupees, I had no smaller change, 50 rupees was the smallest and I bet if he had been given that no change would have been returned. Thankfully my two friends got on the same carriage and assisted me in getting rid of him. It is at times like this when I really need someone with me, it gets pretty scary and upsetting. I was then on my own, thankfully the carriage was not so full and I had a whole seat to stretch out on. At night however no lights are on so you do not know what you are lying on. I stayed lying down for about an hour to try to sleep, one hand on my luggage, still no real luck, so sat up again and waited for daylight.

I was starved by morning, luckily still had water, tired and quite expressionlessly irritable. It seems that at certain stations there is a need to stop for hours on end for no apparent reason, no wonder the trains are never on time. At around 12 noon we arrived in Jaipur, I felt delirious. The scenery coming here was beautiful and some small villages looked nice and welcoming. Much farmland and greenness this time of year. A few hills in the distance, the type of thing you would prefer to stop off and see instead of the smelly cities, which I think will end up much the same after a while.
Amazingly enough there was a rickshaw man waiting as we stepped from the train. Fraser looked like he was going to die. Our man would take us to our hotel for 5 rupees, sounds a bit suspicious to start with. Came straight to the Jaipur Inn, so must have some sort of commission scam going. I gave him money but he would not take it, his plan was to take me all over everywhere and I pay at the end, by which time you have lost count of all the 5 rupees, so I declined. I wanted to do things at my own pace and not to be tied. He came back at 5 to get my decision and the money. I handed 10 rupees but he would not take it. I declined his service but still he expected to come back tomorrow. I still insisted that I had finished with him for the time being and it was then that he got nasty. He told me I was stupid and started using F words, by the time I got back into the hotel I was quite upset. I was scared to venture out again in case they were waiting for me. I really am feeling pissed off with India. Only one week so will persevere.

My room is ok, common bathroom, also ok. My shower was wonderful and the change into clean clothes a treat. I washed some clothes, roughly anyway, and wandered out to find food. Got bread and a birthday card for Amy. We are too far out to get decent food. I think I slept for a spell, not certain. Phoning home may be possible, fairly cheap. Buffet dinner was nice, but I found myself not so hungry as I expected. One German guy told me he never thought he was capable of being so rude to people. I know what he means. Went to bed at 8pm.

15 September – Had a nice breakfast, found it hard to motivate myself to get out early. Found myself a cycle rickshaw, I shall not use autos unless forced to. Railway to make next reservation, Thomas Cook to change a cheque and GPO to post my parcel (370 rupees – bit steep I thought). Did get some nice help there though. The Indian guys do like to touch you when they talk. The streets are much the same as any city, full of everyone and everything. The only difference here are the camels used to cart things about.

Is easier to wander the streets here and feel at ease. I came back to the hotel then to make my call. The guy wanted to come back at 1 or 2 to take me around but I was not sure when I would be ready. Made him take money and he went off begrudgingly but with no abuse.

I went to the proper STD phone place and found it would be only 69 rupees per minute, so phoned Kevin, gave him the hotel number and told him to ring back in 10 minutes. Cost 40 rupees for 34 seconds. I would be charged 30 rupees for 6/7 minutes on the hotel phone.

Was nice walking around amongst the camels. Bitten to hell now. Was so good to hear Kevin, I nearly cried. I have been so frustrated over the past few days I needed a hug and companionship. He was glad to know I got here ok ‘n’ stuff. Could have talked for hours but could not. I went back to my room and cried for a while, tears I wanted to shed yesterday.

Really cannot be bothered to go out today. Some travellers I met in Agra came to stay so chatted with them all afternoon, plus a girl from Preston. They are all off to Nepal eventually, lucky sods, supposed to be much nicer up there. I wrote some more, slept a while and waited for dinner, up on the roof. Very nice setting too. Half of this hotel is up and running and the other in ruins. It has been going for 18 years, the father started from scratch, the son has run it for two years and is trying to build it up. By the time he has done his bit, his son will take over.

I have to say that although India seems dirty and smelly and stuff I am not shocked by it, I think there are probably much worse countries than this. Years ago it was a grand place, but progress has ruined it. You cannot say that a beggar in USA is any better off than a beggar here, simply based on the clothes they wear. The lifestyles do not compare. Not so tired tonight, will get an early night to get the sightseeing done tomorrow before I leave.

16 September – The day has been pretty good considering. I rose early for breakfast, good porridge actually and was out just after 9am, after moving my luggage to the dormitory (which incidentally looked better than my room).

I chose to walk to the Pink City, managed to get past the ticket touts unscathed and took about half an hour to get there, through the shit and smoggy traffic. The Pink City, not so pink, was just a mass of streets and alleys, so crowded, markets, everything. On my way to the City Palace I was approached by various men/boys. The first was ok, he wanted me to go to his shop as I think did the second. The next two wanted to take me up to see a city view from a building somewhere. Back at the hotel I noticed a list on the wall of the 10 best lines from an Indian. So when I heard the line ‘western girls do not like to talk to Indian men, can you tell me why’, I had to laugh. I finally found the Palace and paid OTT plus camera charge.

I met Naggi in the courtyard, a Japanese girl, so we paired up. From the way she talked you would think she had been travelling in India for months, but only the same as me. However, I do think that after a week you wise up, perhaps if you did not know so much you might have a better time. Only a part of the Palace is still used by the former Maharaja and it is fairly easy to see where as the entrances are still maintained very well. The main of the Palace is left to ruin and is filled with memorabilia of the Moghul days. The art gallery, the armoury with its many swords and knives, some with beautiful jade handles. I found it all fairly interesting but was not overawed by it.

After this we tried to find the Hawa Mahal and after much wandering up and down found we had gone the wrong way. This was only 2 rupees to get in and this time 50 rupee for camera, so I did not declare it. The palace was built as a watch out point for the royal women to observe everyday life. This was one of the best parts of the day as we had to wind our way to the top and once there found a very cool shady spot. You had a brilliant view of the city.

All the cities have the same things, palace, fort, museums, so will not spend my entire time looking at every one. Would love to find a thimble with India on it. Whilst up the tower, Fraser and Phil came up, so chatted with them. Naggi went her own way and I went with the lads for a spot to eat.

We ended up at LMB, a 50s style restaurant. A little psychedelic and a little expensive, this would be my main meal of the day. The toilets were a hole in the ground and for some reason I managed to piss everywhere bar the hole. Then we decided on the zoo a little further down the road. Only 1 rupee to get in and fairly well kept, the animals looked sad but well fed, many types of deer, a lion, leopards, monkeys.

For the tigers you had to go elsewhere so we did not bother and another section was across the way. Also in the Ram Niwas Gardens is an elaborate building, housing a museum (closed). On our way to it and back again we were hounded by beggar boys. They think by saying hello they have made some amazing contact and that in return we will be willing to part with every penny we have. One boy had two thumbs on one hand, weird. Phil and I just laugh at the persistence but Fraser is well pissed off by it all, he just comes out with some awful language.

My good day was about to turn sour. The lads went off and I had to get back to the hotel so boarded a cycle rickshaw. The mad did not speak English and I was not sure he knew where to go. I was right. We went everywhere bar where we had to go and I was getting irate. Eventually we stopped and I beckoned an auto rickshaw over. I was hoping to pay my useless driver a small fee for bad service and carry on my journey with the auto-man. They argued for a while until another cycle came along. He took me back to the hotel after I had paid 10 rupees to the first guy. I was really frantic about the whole thing; I will never trust a non-English speaking driver again. Just time to collect myself and get to the station.

There did not appear to be a 6.15 train so I would have to wait until 8.25. I could not find any other westerners going my way and, because I would not get to Ajmer until 11.30pm, I decided to book into a retiring room and catch the early morning train at 5.55am. My room and bathroom were amazingly clean and so I settled down for a good night’s sleep. I can see this trip being a big headache with little sightseeing done. Will be glad to get home.

17 September – Awoke by a loud banging on my door at 4.50am. Persistent little man. The train (a smelly, pissy one) left precisely on time. As we pass through the villages it is nice to see people have the same sort of routines as us in the morning. I think as long as I look busy, people will leave me alone, there is a distinct lack of women on these trains. After a while I was left on my own, then a few guys came along to play cards, actually nice ones. Some went and one remained and we had quite a good chat up to my stop. I asked why Indian men think western women always want men. He said because compared to Indian women we dress so casually, expose more of our bodies, our faces even. They also see us smoking cigarettes in a relaxed manner, as if to say come get me. We look not respectable but bad women. Apparently western civilisation is coming here so I hope it hurries up so that more Indian women get bothered instead of us.

In Ajmer I cancelled my reservation to Jodhpur and do not have to make one to Udaipur so am free to choose when I move on. A silly man at the bus stand would not take my 5 rupee note, the first I have had of this problem.
The bus to Pushkar was not so crowded and the journey not so horrific as I was led to believe. It was a short trip up across the hill and picturesque I guess, but not spectacular as the guide book says. Reached Pushkar quickly and what a difference. Peace, perfect peace, a small, small town, no auto rickshaws about. I was met by a guy willing to take my bags to my hotel, he used a four-wheeled cart and pushed it himself.

My first choice of hotel was booked up for the price range I wanted, as too was the second. Hardly any vehicles on these narrow, winding streets and everyone seems so friendly. Nice shops and restaurants. My pusher persuaded me to go to his uncle’s hotel, by the bus station. I thought near to where we came in but t’was way over the other side of town, if I had known I would not have gone. It is a fairly new place (2 years) and is called ‘Hill View Hotel’, setting is behind a hospital. Very out of the way with big garden area under development, is really a converted farm I think. My price had gone up to 50 rupees, I gave him 30 only, but now I feel guilty because he was a nice man, but he has a no great expenditure on his carriage and he chose to bring me here.

My room was really quite nice, double bed for 40 rupees and very airy with much light. The view as nice. Bathroom, communal next door, ok except for squat hole toilet and shower water runs into it, so I suppose the soapiness keeps it clean. Interesting. It seems to have a nice atmosphere and friendly too, other westerners are staying here so will do. Would rather be in town. I took a picture of two ladies working on a building here, one said she wanted money, I was willing to give her some, just 3 rupees, I could not tell if she was pulling my leg or not, she had such a cheeky way about her. I have given her nothing yet. Tomorrow if she asks, I will give to her no problem.

Decided I should check the town out. Not sure I went in the way I came out, anyways, on the way I purchased some flowers from some small lads. Then I had a friendly man chatting to me, seemed like Pushkar was full of nice people so need not worry. He wanted to know if I had anything to sell him, I didn’t. So then he told me about a ghat in town and as there was a festival going on at the moment it was a thing that all, including visitors, go down and take part. I saw it was by the lake and did not look so good, I tried to back out. The man however insisted, nearly dragged me down. I just wanted to look, but again, another man, the priest, got me to take my shoes off and go down to the water with him. He did much praying for my family and I threw flowers and stuff in the water and splashed the water around and had to say some Indian words, I found it all a little amusing to say the least. Then the crunch came, money was involved to make my prayers come true. He chanted 50 rupees, 100 rupees, 150 rupees etc, ‘as you like’ (a favourite in India). Had I known I would never have gone down at all, they always get you that way. Everything is money in India. If I had small change I would have donated, as it was I only had 50 rupees smallest, so got out as quick as I could, chased by the little man. It was probably very rude of me, but I was so annoyed as well. I feel as though my face will become mud around the place. Again, I have had my first impressions shattered and feel like leaving soon. I must find some peace somewhere.

I headed into a restaurant for a bite, very nice, 25 rupees, the owner was good to chat to, has his finger in a lot of pies. On leaving I removed my hat and glasses so as not to be recognised from before. Took a short-cut back to the hotel away from the ghat. Judging from the temple noise tonight I think this is one of the quietest places to be. Feels like I am actually living with a family here, so nice and relaxed atmosphere. Depending on how it goes may stay for a few days, still not sure about the loo. Ate a little here and a lovely pot of tea. Chatted with the family. Is raining now so glad I am not out in it. I think my bug stuff is working tonight.

Current day thoughts

My first week in India was filled with many emotions at one time; frustration, awe, anger, happiness. It was a strange time but I was confident enough to persevere. I think if I had gone to India first I may well have caved in and come home, but having those months beforehand building up my confidence, were a god-send. I am glad to have had my Lonely Planet guide book, but sometimes I feel it may have prepared me too much for all of the hassles I might encounter as it meant my guard was always up. I mentioned the guy who said he didn’t know he was capable of being so rude to people. I felt exactly the same, the anger just builds up inside of you and it has to come out somehow. I have had several outbursts since then and I hate myself afterwards, but sometimes you can’t stop it, the words just come tumbling out. I was never brought up to express myself emotionally, if anything made me angry or frustrated I would generally cry, that is something we learn as children. Not sure it is such a good coping mechanism because all the stuff you are feeling stays locked in, the crying just lets out a little but doesn’t teach you how to properly communicate with people. Even now though, if I have an outburst, I end up having to cry at some point because of how upset I feel.

Everyone steals something from a hotel room at some point. Apart from the obligatory toiletries, I have had sheets and pillows.

We are so drilled into being on time here, except some of the trains of course, but in countries such as India the laid-back nature can leave you wondering why you bother. I don’t think any of the trains I took during the daytime hours turned up on time, come to think of it only a few did in the early hours. It was quite a concern at times because you never knew if you had missed your train or if you were going to get on the next. I got into a right panic with the first train ride I was to make. I got there on time and I just couldn’t find where my reservation was and I thought the train would go without me. There were no recognisable markings for me to see my carriage I discovered that on the outside of the carriages was a list containing the reservations of everyone. Thank you to the men who helped me out with that one. I don’t think I need to go over how busy it was on the train.

Why I imagined that Sunday was a religious observance day in India, as it used to be in the UK, I don’t know. Of course it may have been for some.
What can I say about the rickshaw drivers? Generally they were a great bunch and the rickshaws are a relatively safe way to get from a to b. They were very persistent though and got very overbearing at times. Only the wonderful man in Agra gets my praise for being brilliant, he went above and beyond for that fare.

It was great to be able to look at the rooms before choosing whether to stay at a hotel or not, having worked in a hotel in this Country I know how annoyed the staff get if you want to change your mind. I don’t remember the view of the Taj Mahal from the hotel, must have been so though. Other foreigners were there too, how extraordinary.

I learned that the young men like to have their pictures taken with western women and then brag to their friends about their conquests. I certainly hope that was not true. I blame the images seen in films as this would be the first point of reference of western women.

Before I went to India I was led to believe that there would be people begging everywhere, especially around the tourist hot spots, however, having gone off season I did not find that so much. And to get to the Taj Mahal grounds so cheaply by just going a few minutes before the evening tariff set in was great. I don’t believe I resembled Princess Diana, but I can imagine how she felt, although no other tourists were at the Taj when she was. I clearly had mixed emotions about the building, it was splendid to see but not awe inspiring. So much money seems to be spent on the wrong things in most counties. It is as if the poor are expected to be humbled by such greatness.

I met several people whose health suffered in India, my Scottish acquaintance being one of them, but at that point my health was good. I always get bitten wherever I go so no surprise there. My skin is so thin and pale the blood vessels are practically calling out to the mosquitos. Citronella smells strongly but works a treat. At the hotel in Agra at dinner one night, I remember people asking what the smell was. It has to admit it was me, may be I had overdone it.

If drinking water from a bottle out and about anywhere you should always crush the bottle afterwards if you don’t need it anymore, because some young entrepreneur may come along and fill it with any old water and try to sell it on to an unsuspecting purchaser. Always check that there is a seal before purchasing.

I was never alone with so many people around, many of whom wanted to chat, and from so many nations. I developed some good conversational skills, which have sadly diminished now. Bless the little beggar boy, I hope he has grown into a successful young many now.

Of all the memories I have on my trip and of India particularly, the cycle rickshaw ride to the train station in Agra stands out as one of the best. I can still see the starry sky and feel the breeze blowing in my face, and my companions. It was so funny and the rickshaw man would not let us off going up hills to make it easier. How many people would ever get to experience the same situation.

I know I had too much luggage with me, but don’t we always when we go away. I met a man at some point who was carrying the smallest of bags with him, like one of those plimsole bags we used to have at school. He asked why I was carrying so much and I couldn’t give him an answer. I think he just had the essentials and washed and wore the same outfit all the time. A wise man.

At most Indian railway stations there is a man selling chai (tea to you and me), in little ceramic pots, and they are the most persistent of men, especially I think at night-time. Me and my new found pals tried to move around so as to avoid him but he eventually cornered us in the waiting room and insisted that we have some of his tea, which we did, and then he charged us for it, 2 rupees a pot.

Unfortunately, you didn’t always have the choice of a porter to carry luggage, they sometimes would just come along and swipe it off the floor and were off, despite any protestations. And they could move too, it some effort to keep up. I really didn’t want to give a 50 rupee note to him and it seems so silly now because we are talking pence in English money, but as I said once before I had to adopt a different mindset when it came to rupees. I got away with it though.

Let’s say if you are visiting London and you want to see the main attractions, it is easy to buy a travel ticket and take public transport to get to them all. However, most of them aren’t that far apart as are easily reached on foot. It was the same in Jaipur once I had got my bearings from the hotel, however not knowing when you first get to a place it was easier to let a rickshaw take you. I can only hope that the rickshaw drivers are not as pushy today as they were then, it really is unnecessary. How anyone could expect to earn a living by being rude to the customer is beyond me, it really put me off. My guard was up even more after that.

The hoteliers were very good at talking to each of their guests to check how things were. Chatting to the owner of the hotel in Jaipur at dinner I talked to him about the hotel and asked if his son would take over one day. He gave a little chuckle at this and said that he would. We have a romantic image of India in that traditions never change. It may be that his son would grow up and want to do something else, and I got the impression that his father would have been happy with that.

Poverty is poverty wherever you go, it just looks different depending on where you are.

I was on the move quite quickly in India, never seeming to stop in one place for too long, unlike the other countries I had visited. Not sure why that was, I didn’t have a particular agenda, just winging it as I went.

Some of the hotels had dormitory style accommodation just like hostels, so I took advantage where I could to save the pennies. The hotels were also very aware of the many scams in the cities, taking advantage of travellers, so they put up lists of the most popular ones in their city to be wary of. Jaipur was the worst I experienced and I was thankful not to be gullible to take any of the offers up. So many bad stories circulate of things that have happened to westerners. Of course, this sort of thing happens in many countries, including westerns ones. I feel like I am trashing India, but it is really one of the nicest of places.

I once collected thimbles, still have many of them, but no longer a collector thankfully as they make for too much cleaning. I am no longer a lover of ornaments.

The little boy with two thumbs on one hand was fascinating, I have never seen anything like it before. Anyone else might have thought me rude to stare and examine his hand, but he loved the attention. I believe I bought the group of boys a bunch of bananas to munch on.

The retiring rooms at the railway stations are amazing places and very clean and reasonably priced, I stayed in quite a few after the first one. The only annoying thing is the early wake up call which you never ask for, to ensure you are ready in time for the train which is a laugh and to see if you want tea. They are obsessed with tea.

The Indians are very particular about the condition of their paper money, it has to be in a good condition or they will not accept it. I had one or two incidents involving this, more of which you will read at later date.
I am glad I went to the Hill View Hotel, it was a lovely, friendly place to stay and not so far from anywhere, just a short walk into the main town. I seemed to upset quite a lot of rickshaw/cart drivers. It is always the big joke that you will get to your hotel and find it being built. This one actually was still being built with only the few rooms available, which were fashioned like a row of semidetached beach huts, without the Punch and Judy stripes and awnings. They also had flat rooves.

I think I upset the man at the ghat as well. I couldn’t understand the language but when money was mentioned, and he started talking hundreds of rupees, I got worried and had to flee, such is my faith in religious practices. My face is mud in a lot of places.

Is peace only a momentary thing.

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Week 35 – 18 September to 24 September

18 September – There was a lot of praying and chanting going on during the night, so had an on/off sleep in the early hours. Is so much cooler today so I may climb up to the Savitri Temple, although not keen on being pushed into anything where money may be involved. I thought the temple was the one I could see from my window, evidently not.

I wound my way through a warren of narrow streets, friendly morning greetings from all around. There are so many animals to walk through, pigs, (who eat the trash), cows and dogs (who do not want attention). Through sheer luck I found my way onto the right road, past those who live a lesser life than some. They still manage to smile and every woman looks so colourful in their clothing. Never known so many young entrepreneurs.
And so I began my climb, I seemed to stir much interest although understood little of the questions. Most just wanted to shake my hands, talk. I think I have a pretty good view of Pushkar from where I am now so will not go further. The town looks so quaint and although the lake looks dirty the locals who worship Brahma treat it as holy water and bathe in it regularly. Such a pretty setting amongst rolling hills and farm land.

Few beggars seemed to notice me today as I walked through the streets. I actually saw a young couple holding hands as they came down from the temple, so sweet. As I came back through the streets, I looked at the shops and nobody tried to sell anything to me. I invested in a padlock and chain, 45 rupees, but now it is done. Also got some choccie and drink, however some boys saw this and pursued me. I had already given one rupee to each of them. One kept up the game, I manged to drink one carton of juice but gave in and handed the other over. It seems easier to part with food than money. Ate one bar of choccie. On the second bar I was accosted by a little boy; he had a deformed face but was so sweet. I handed the rest over to him. By which time a lady had attracted my attention. She led me to a stall, I thought was hers, still not sure now. Anyway, I bought a peanut crackle for 2 rupee, 3 rupees left, two the woman had and the last I gave the little boy – totally wiped out. Next time I go out I will not take money. Came back to hotel as quick as I could for a rest.

Towards 6pm I started to climb the hill behind the hotel, only I had to walk a short way to get the easy way up. I had no money, much to the surprise of three young scallywags. The trek up this hill was easy compared to the one this morning and the view was just as magnificent. Vast areas of open space, just beautiful. This time only 2 or 3 people up there to watch the sunset. Away from it all with just one’s thoughts, perfect.

Came down a different way with an English chap. We passed an extremely noisy ritual going on in one small temple. Back at the ranch all was in darkness, no sign of the family. They had been to Ajmer all day. I felt guilty at asking for food, especially as the lady is on a day’s fast.

19 September – Decided to stay another day and go into Ajmer to do something. The bus was a little crowded to say the least, now I know the route I am not so concerned. Went first to the railway station, retiring rooms are at Udaipur but on a first come first serve basis. Next posted a card to Maria. Found the Bhola restaurant for a drink. Ordered a drink and some ice cream, ended up with an ice lolly. Could have stayed much longer, I felt safe.

Had a big sight-seeing thing planned. Started with the Nasiyan Temple. Had to take my shoes off, only 2 rupees to get in. Half of it was shut off so hardly worth going in. The actual temple worship area is restricted to members of the Jain faith, so could only look in through glass from the third floor. There was a miniature collection of figures and buildings significant to the Jain faith. It took 10 years for 20 men to complete the carvings, a percentage is covered in gold, coloured glass and diamonds ornate the upper window on the inside. A guy who is the artist there told me a lot of the history and actually did not want any money. He and 19 others are responsible for the artwork on the walls and ceilings. Done in vegetable and natural dyes the paintings last for very much longer than with synthetic paints. They have a five-year course to learn the techniques. He also showed me some miniature paintings on cloth that he had done. Sells retail 25 rupees for small ones, shops sell for 100s of rupees. I tried to then find the lake but took wrong turning and ended up winding my way through the narrow market streets. I ignored anyone who spoke to me no matter how polite they were. I was fed up by then and made my way back to the bus stand. Another smoggy, smeggy city.

Coming back was much worse, no room at all. Had some elder gentleman to talk to, they were nice people, told me to take much care. So nice to be back here, not so keen to move on now. My camera has buggered up on this film. Somewhere the back came open and the film rewound. Have taken some photos over the top of original ones, doubt any will come out now. Perhaps this is my penance for not paying up to the ghat man. It is not so much for me that I worry about pictures, I have my memories, it is for other people’s benefit.

I waited for the eldest boy of the family to go shopping before we went up the hill together. A group of youngsters came over from the house for a chat and photo session.

Nice kids, only one griped about money for the photos. Even then the camera messed up. One girl did a Hindu dance for me, with music, such a sweety.

I felt safer going up to the temple with the lad, can’t remember his name. He is 15 years and looks about 12 years only. Not interested in the rest of the world, just Pushkar and his family. Did not catch the sun so good tonight and the atmosphere did not feel the same. We stayed up there ‘til dark and made the dodgy descent. Ready for some good food now.

I was shown around the house, an old hospital, the whole family seem to live here – grandmother, aunts etc. They live so simply.

In the room they live in is the bed, where the whole family sleep, the fridge, TV, worshipping area. However, they are so happy makes me feel so selfish and greedy, although I am grateful for my somewhat humble nature in being able to accept a lesser style of living. It is the few bad and greedy people in India who spoil it for the rest of the nation, so many nice people about. On the whole a westerner will not have a good impression of the countrymen. I can never wait until the end of each day when I am behind the walls of my hotels. I feel so lucky to have found this place, but all good things must come to an end, I guess.

20 September – Have to move on. Made good use of the facilities before I went. I was talking to an Italian girl over breakfast, she intends to live in India, preferably in Pushkar, but sometimes travels around to find work. It is the only place where she has been able to find peace of mind. She must have been very troubled in the first place, but I know what she means, I find my peace in secluded spots surrounded by nature, preferably on a hill top. She has no ties back in Italy, just an elderly father. She will go home occasionally to work maybe, but intends always to come back to India.
I made my slow walk to the bus station. My friend from the hotel was there with his father, they waited and saw me onto the right bus. A good bus, with music this time. I had to sit squashed in a corner with my knees up around my ears, but at least the window was there to hang out of if necessary. Stopped right outside the station which was brilliant. Happened upon a couple of Germans going to Udaipur, so sat and had some refreshment with them. Found the station amazingly quiet and empty. Was able to sit with Christina and Christoph on the train, looks like it will be a good journey. Sometimes I feel a bit of a hanger-oner, but I would go mad without company some days. The journey was good and uneventful. Plenty of room, good conversation. Seemed like the middle of the night at one point, but only 9.30, we reached Udaipur shortly after 10.30. My friends were kind enough to hang on whilst I found out if a retiring room was free. There was so I bade them farewell and hoped they would find a good room to stay the night. My room was really good, spacious. Could have held a party there. Separate bath and toilet, only 35 rupees. The squat toilet here had a flush system, very modern. Ready for a good night’s sleep.

21 September – Was awake around 6am but still had the usually noisy wake-up call from the night duty man. He wanted to know if I would like a cup of tea, silly man. By 8am I was up and gone.

I chose the Prince Hotel and although not in a great place, is clean, not such a good service though. Think I am the only westerner staying here. Wish I had listened to my rickshaw driver. My hotel is convenient for the tourist place and it seems if I want a good meal, I will have to eat there. Had omelette for breakfast and disgusting tea. My laundry can be done here, not certain of the cost though, needs to be done. I booked an afternoon tour today and will take the city tour tomorrow morning. Kind of concerned about my cash funds at this early stage so will take the inconvenience of late-night trains rather than buses also. Will know during October how I am doing with cash flow.

Joined the tour at 2pm, I was the only westerner, although turns out 2 of the Indian women came from South Africa. They were nice ladies, quite funny in fact. Their religion is Hindu, but they do not practice it so fanatically, as they put it. They do not go around shitting everywhere either. I think the nail was hit on the head when the daughter said that the Hindus here spend too much time praying for wealth, health and prosperity and not enough time trying to get it, that is why half the people have nothing. We first drove out to Haldighati, took quite a while but the countryside was beautiful, green, lush, hilly.

Haldighati is the site of a battlefield in 1576. All that depicts the area is a memorial to the horse call Chetak, who displayed outstanding bravery to his master, Maharana Pratap. A cafeteria come shop is situated there for any sucker tourists. So far so boring.

Next was the drive to Nathdwara to a temple. The trouble with a lot of the temples and stuff in India is that you are not allowed to take photographs, can be a bit of a waste of time. Here we walked through the narrow streets up hill to the temple. I was not going in but ended up anyway. After the shoe removing I was temporarily inaugurated as a Hindu, otherwise could not go in.

I was taken around by a man, claiming not to be a guide, strange I thought. The temple is basically dedicated to Krishna and his wife and the outer courtyard has varying galleries and idolistic bits and pieces relating to the history of Krishna. My man did not speak English hardly at all so communication was a bit one sided. At one point he kept shaking my hand and tweeking my cheek, he even kissed it once. Not quite sure if I talked myself into anything or not. Did not like the look of the next pathway, looked like the back of the temple grounds. He plodded on ahead, but I turned back and out of the temple asap. By the time I collected my shoes the actual temple was opening, but I could not be bothered to go back up and strolled back to the bus. I find it amazing that people have to stare so much, especially children. My two friends were equally as unimpressed with the tour at this point.

I was ready to go back by then and almost forgot that we were stopping in Eklingi. No cameras here either, which was a shame because it was much better to see. The main temple is very elaborate, made of stone which has been carved with Hindu symbols. A solid silver bull sits before the alter, which is itself framed in silver pained wood. The centre piece is a black marble four faced image of the god Shiva, just beautiful. You find that as well as the main temples, people will set up their own small worshiping alter, in home, office, anywhere. Usually has the image of the god with offerings around it, flowers, sweets, fruit, money. Enjoyed this part of the trip.

Had dinner at the tourist bungalow, not so wonderful, think I could have been the only customer all night. Back at the ranch things were not so good. I discovered rats had been in my bathroom, depositing fresh droppings, it was noisy, I got pissed off with being stared at and my laundry came back in a still not perfectly clean state. The white sheet was blue. Still only 30 rupees. Think I will check out in the morning.

22 September – Up and mobile as quick as I could, forgot about cancelling my morning tour. Checked out no problem, they actually owed me money. Decided on the Raj Niwas Hotel. Nice setting, clean and friendly staff. Rooms were a bit expensive so took a dorm bed, looks like I have the room to myself, the bed right by the window, have a balcony, table tennis table (with bats and ball). Only problem is the bathroom and toilet, both downstairs, outside, bit like an outhouse but still clean.

Happy at last I tucked into breakfast, price a little steep but ok. Met Monica, she is from Toronto, on her own, although I think she has attached herself to various people to travel with. She has been invited to the house of one of the hotel workers tonight and wanted me to go too for support, only problem is it is a ways out and we will have to get a taxi, for about an hour’s visit, it hardly seems worth it.

Found the city palace after traipsing up and down various roadways. Took in the view first of Lake Pichola.

The Lake Palace looks amazing, just sat out there on its own. Has been turned into a hotel now, but was the residence of Maharana Jagat Singh from 1754. Only the very wealthy can afford to stay there. The film Octopussy was shot here and Roger Moore stayed at the hotel. Will have to check the film out again.

Had to pay 35 rupees to get into the city palace, extra 30 for camera, so I hid that away. Glad I did not go on the tour now. As luck would have it I bumped into the tour guide, but made my excuses. A tour guide insisted that I would need his services to see the palace properly but at 45 rupees a time I decided my book would do me. One part is still lived in by the current Maharana, two hotels occupy another sector and the rest is for viewing as a museum piece. The entrance is full of shops and refreshments as you would expect. It is very difficult to find your way around; you can never be quite sure which bits are viable and which not. Reached the government museum and had to pay extra, but it was worth it just to see the displays of taxidermy, they look like poorly fitted wigs, so funny.

The next bits I found interesting, some pictures and displays were from the battle of Haldighati, so could relate to them. The palaces had so many nooks and crannies, can’t imagine what they were all used for. I was about to leave when I spotted yet another gateway, it was flanked by officials so guessed it was ok to enter. This was the palace museum, looks like it was the courtyard where they stored vehicles and carriages. Not at all well kept up, everything is simply left to rack and ruin. Had a good two hours in all.

I followed the road into the town’s narrow streets, actually a lot more interesting activity going on in Udaipur.

Craftsmen as well as shops. One craft in particular hits you, all over, and that is the number of art schools. I was approached by one group of students quite persistently. They were coming to Birmingham NEC to exhibit their work and wanted people to come in and see the stuff. I didn’t and carried on walking. Joined now by a lad, we ended up down by a ghat. The water is used by women to bathe in and for washing clothes. They beat the hell out of the clothes with large butter pat type things, was quite the hive of industry.

The boy turns out to be part of the art school and seemed intent on following me around. Wandered across a bridge into another part of Udaipur and walked to the other side of the lake until we could go no further. Here the men were bathing, did not feel like I was supposed to be there, men only. Was lovely to see the city palace and lake palace from a different angle.

Stayed for a while chatting and on the way back stopped off in a Jain temple.

The difference in a Jain to a Hindu temple, apart from the idol, is that the Jain people paint pictures on the walls and use ceramic tiles and glass to ornate the building. Hindus have a lot of carvings from stone. The big man had his preaching throne all set up to talk to other people. For all its meaning, some of the temples look a bit tacky. More time spent on them than homes. I had some saffron put on my forehead for good luck. Sadly no photos here either.

I ended up going to the art school and sat through endless silk and marble paintings, all they wanted to do was sell something. Of course, the shop was shutting up at 6pm for 3-4 weeks so this would be my only chance to buy. I have since learned that exhibitions are happening all over the world so am a little suspicious.

Was half starved so came back to the hotel for a snack, then strolled around the Sajjan Niwas gardens. Sure I missed most of it out but was pleasant nonetheless. Was going to walk out to a sunset point but was waylaid by a business woman this time, trying to get women to her beauty parlour. Again, she was shutting up shop for 2 weeks from tonight. She told me the sunset point was not a good place to go so ended up back at the city palace to watch it go. It was beautiful but I did not want a photo of the sunset, I hoped that the palace would be illuminated when dark and would snap then. Christina and Christoph came by, they did not get a good hotel either by the sound of things. Think we will be travelling together again on the train tomorrow. The small palace lit up but the lake palace did not so came back. A nice relaxing day.

Monica didn’t go in the end, instead she attached herself to another solitary soul.

23 September – This part of my trip has to be the biggest endurance test so far, of nerve and strength. Had an otherwise good day marred by some assholes. Couldn’t face a bicycle so walked.

Got to the Fateh Sagar Lake quite easily, taking the quiet scenic way.

Went up the Moti Marg hill to the Pratap Smarak monument, nice gardens and nice views from the monument, would have been nice to sit for a while but too many men folk around.

The monument is to do with the Maharana Pratap and the Haldighati battle, he was quite a hero. The boats out to Nehru Park go regularly so will do that last, looks nice out there.

Going out to the Saheliyon-ki-Bari proved a nightmare. I was following a couple of Israelis who I guessed were headed that way too. It was a long, but quiet route, which was spoiled when first two boys came along and slapped my ass as they went by and also the same from two motor cyclists who had obviously seen and decided to copy – really pissed off now. The Ki-Gari gardens are supposed to be some of the best in India, if this is the best they can do I don’t think it worth going to see anymore gardens.

Had some stupid git there saying something in Hindu, he found amusing. Teamed up with the Israeli couple for a rickshaw, which messed us about, they seem to have their heads screwed on ok. So, ended up walking back on my own, thankfully with an uneventful path.

Just caught the next boat across to the Nehru Park and was again very disappointed by the attraction. The restaurant was not serving food and half of the paths were blocked by murky water. Stayed for ¾ of an hour and came back. My camera messed up again too, got to 24 pictures this time and wound its way back, going to have some wonderful memories of India. Anybody who approached me on the way back, I either ignored or was very rude, I cannot give anyone the time of day now. Went a bit off course and had to get a rickshaw back, I was so close to being on familiar ground.
Ate well back at the hotel and grabbed what I could of a moments piece before heading off. The rickshaw drivers must have had wanted something to do, the rate they all sped over to convey me to the station. Due to unforeseen circumstances I missed Christina and Christoph and ended up in a women’s carriage, surprisingly enough surrounded by men. Settled for the top bunk to try and get some sleep.

24 September – James Gilbert’s birthday today, must be at least 17 years now.

The train is a steam one and the inside of the carriages are covered in smut, my hands are filthy, bet my clothes are too. Had a little sleep I guess, despite being uncomfortable. One late arrival on the seat below started whinging because she didn’t like me having my shoes on above her. She lives in a country full of shit and is worried about a little non-existent dust. Silly bitch.

Ahmedabad looks like a busy place, has telephone facilities for phoning home direct, so may use them on the way back. Decided on going straight to Rajkot to save having to spend a night here, the train was ready and waiting so did not see the point in losing time. I found it funny to see people walking around with handkerchiefs and face masks on because of the pollution in the area. What about all the shit everywhere else? Looking back across the city from the train it is clear to see the polluted air. Saw a few men hanging out for all the world to see, in the open-air toilets, looked like the vegetable patch, yummy. Gujarat is not half as beautiful as Rajasthan, no hills or anything. The journey was uneventful but very hot with the sun beating down. Had a few chats with some co-passengers, I do not think many Indian women speak English.

Reached Rajkot and wondered what I had come in to. The place just looked like a shambles with no attractions. My first hotel was fully booked, I wonder at that, so went to the Galaxy Hotel. The rest of the cheap choices were not so good so I guess the extra, extra cost justifies itself. 220 rupees a room plus tax, 20 rupees mineral water. The only good thing was the fact that no commission was taken for the travellers cheque. Have the feeling I am the only westerner in the whole of Rajkot, not another pale face seen.
So far, I checked out the stories about the plague in Surat in the paper. Looks a bit worrying to be honest. A lot of the population have fled the city to Bombay, Ahmedabad and other north cities. I now understand why those people held handkerchiefs to their faces. Who knows who has been travelling on the trains, I really do not know what to do for the best. Some cases are reported in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, so could spread here too. Most people think it ok to continue to Diu, I am tempted just to see if Christina and Christoph are there. I guess if things got bad in Gujarat I could fly out. By train I still have to come back through Ahmedabad, so glad I did not stay last night. The tourist place is shut until Monday, will try to talk to someone at the railway station tomorrow. Can’t afford another night here. What to do, what to do? By now the family back home will be panicking. Should phone Kevin.

Ate out and reached my limit on rupees for the day, cheapy day tomorrow. I went up to the Jubilee Gardens, the only attraction. The library was open, the gardens non-existent, but the museum was closed every 2nd and 4th Saturday, just my luck, so snapped Ghandi and headed for the banana stall. A very nice man paid for them for me, only 2½ rupees so I would not have gone bankrupt. Despite its unattractiveness, Rajkot is a good place to walk round. I think people were surprised to see me, I got no hassles – brilliant.

Current day thoughts

I felt like I was on my guard the whole time, looking out for scams, waiting to be swindled or disrespected. My mood was up and down in quick succession. At times I got so angry at the way I was treated, I had to edit some of my diary out because I didn’t feel it appropriate to us the phrase I did, but when that happens a whole host of expletives come to mind, the word I used was probably a polite one. In an instant my impression of a place could go downhill very quickly, all because of a few nasty people, who really didn’t represent the whole community. Even the women’s only carriage on the train from Udaipur was disrespected, filled with men. I saw a programme recently and in it I learned that now there is an underground service in New Delhi and some of the trains have women only carriages. I hope those are respected.

It is the same worldwide. I know several places or areas that I wouldn’t visit because of the bad reputation they have, but that doesn’t mean everyone there is bad. And the endless attempts to get a person to buy something, it was so infuriating. I suppose it was stupid to take up the offers to visit shops etc to see all the wonderful things, however it could be interesting and informative too. I declined offers to purchase on most occasions and you could see the disappointment in the vendors eyes, especially owing to the effort made to sell. The same lines were used by everyone to try and lure you into a sell. I felt bad a lot of the time but, despite the offers to ship things back home for me, I really couldn’t carry that much. I suppose a lot of the tourists they see are just there for a couple of weeks, with money to burn, so you can’t blame them.

I found the beggars, not sure if the homeless is the right phrase, in Pushkar to be some of the most polite and they certainly looked very healthy, well looked after. On the whole Pushkar was a great place and I think everyone was pleased to greet visitors to the city as they bring prosperity (cash to you and me). Cash, the thing that makes to world go around. It was tiring being pursued by people/children always wanting something from you. I did learn though by not taking any money out with me sometimes. The boys who showed me the route to the hill behind my hotel in Pushkar heard a jangling in my trouser pockets which they thought was money, and of course they wanted for their service. I had to turn my pockets out to prove I had no cash and that the jangling was my room key. They were dumbfounded. I still remember the face of the boy I gave chocolate to; one side of his face was deformed, the other not. He looked up at me with his big puppy eyes and gave me the most beautiful smile. How could I not share my chocolate with him.

I didn’t see much open affection between couples in India so it was nice to see a couple holding hands as they walked along.

I bought a padlock and chain to secure hotel doors wherever I stayed, there were no fancy locks at the places I stayed. Often the proprietors would provide a padlock but I felt if I had my own then no duplicate keys could be used to access my rooms.

The lovely lady at my hotel in Pushkar cooked for me most days and sometimes I think I was the only guest who she did it for. If she didn’t have all of the ingredients for something I asked for she would always cook it the next day and often whatever I wanted she would cook for her whole family too. For a hotel that was not yet finished, the service was outstanding. Pushkar seemed to be the best place so far. The lad at the hotel never wanted to visit anywhere else in the world expect for his region. He was so content and knew which girl he was going to marry. He said that every time they saw each other they had the biggest grins. Oh to be as content. I have looked up the hotel since then and it really has grown and looks lovely. There is a picture of the couple who now run the hotel and I wonder if it is the lad and his now wife. Would be nice to think so. I didn’t remember him and his father at the bus station waiting to make sure I got off ok, how lovely was that, I really should go back one day.

Like everyone would be rushing to look at my photos. I was the typical bore when I got back home, after talking through the first thousand pictures, most of which meant nothing to anyone else, people lost interest. I don’t remember half the places myself, so a few lost pictures through camera malfunction is by the by.

My first hotel in Udaipur. The proprietors were very welcome, they even offered me a television to use, which I declined, but rats in my room, no way was I going to continue staying there. After I saw the droppings in the bathroom I was suspicious, I cleaned them up and I made sure the bathroom door was closed. When I returned there were fresh dropping, the rats appeared to have come through a hole in the wall where the pipes went out. I didn’t hesitate to leave. And on top of that the lovely sheet that I stole from the hotel in Delhi came back a different shade, if in fact it was the same sheet.

The Nathdwara experience was an interesting one. I didn’t get caught up too much with the whole worship thing as I think I didn’t feel comfortable with it, so hung back quite a bit whilst the rest of the group carried on. Perhaps that is why the guide/non guide attached himself to me. Can’t remember all of our conversations, but I remember we talked a bit about me which included me not wanting to have children, which he said would be a bad thing in India. I certainly don’t remember his kissing me on the cheek, rather forward of him to say the least. I got the impression he wanted to show me a part of the temple that perhaps housed some of the poor people or something connected to children, but the narrow alley, which was lined with old men just sitting, looked a bit dodgy, so I stopped following the guide and got out quickly. He didn’t chase after me. I really couldn’t say what he was all about.

The shower facility at my second hotel in Udaipur was just a small shack, it did look clean but when you used it there was no light to see what you were doing. Showering in the dark can be a bit frightening.

At one point going around the city palace someone did ask me for information about the palace from the guide book I had. I could have led some tours myself. The taxidermy was just wonderfully funny. The skins of the animals had been stretched as much as they could around whatever models they used, but the stitching could be seen and there were gaps where the skins didn’t quite reach. The thing I did notice in a lot of the museums is the lack of care of the exhibits. Whereas here a lot of things are preserved really well and kept in the right conditions for this, in the Indian museums everything was just left to its own fate.

I have a good memory for remembering people’s birthdays, but clearly not ages.

The sights coming into the station at Rajkot were not good before breakfast. Seeing all the local men crouched down by the river bank displaying their meat and two veg, waiting to empty their bowels, was very funny and nauseating at the same time.

I paid about £5 for the night in Rajkot, which was the most money I spent on a hotel during my stay in India, however I am glad that I did. I had a news paper for my room, hot and cold running water and a television. I learned on the BBC World News that there was an outbreak of plague in India, in the very region I was staying. It was quite concerning to know what to do for the best, but I decided to get out of the area as soon as I could, by train again. With people fleeing the area every which way I could have bumped into anyone who was carrying the virus. I figured the story would be news worldwide when in reality it wasn’t. I don’t think anyone back home knew about it. More about the plague later.

Despite only having one day/night in Rajkot I made the most of it and what it has to offer. Ghandi came here as part of his campaign for independence, so felt I was following in some great footsteps in my own quest for independence.

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Week 36 – 25 September to 1 October

25 September – Reports indicate that the plague situation is coming under control. The newspaper shows cases all along the Gujarat border, which is worrying. The situation could suddenly get worse again, thus closing the Gujarat state altogether from coming or going. Heading to the south of the state is probably ok, but I do not want to get stuck here, so I will leave Gujarat today and head south. For the sake of seeing one place it really is not worth hanging around.

Had to wait 2-3 hours for the next train out, so had a spot of lunch to fill the gap. Thali 13 rupees, would be 35-40 plus in a restaurant, ended up with half of it on my shirt sleeve.

Don’t know what it is about the trains lately but they all stir up a trail of dust or smog into the carriages making everything, including people, very dirty. My handkerchief was black from wiping my face over. Have never noticed it so bad before. The good thing about this journey is it is empty in the carriages and has been totally uneventful. Ahmedabad was busy, felt like I should be covering my face as a precautionary measure. I joined a queue to try and make a reservation on the Bombay train. After a long wait I jumped the queue and managed to flash my Indrail pass to a place. It was in a men’s compartment but who cares. I locked my luggage up and took the top bunk of the three tier, up out of the way from prying eyes. I settled to a night’s sleep. I feel so grubby, but my bed was comfortable and I doubted any smuts would be coming in on this train. How people manage to stay looking so fresh and clean, beats me.

26 September – Arrived Bombay at 6am, my luggage and me caked with grime. The information place was not open until 8.30am so took a cab to my first (the cheapest) choice of accommodation, the Salvation Army Hostel. Had a hard time finding a cab driver who knew the way and then took one who tried, unsuccessfully, to rip me off. Don’t know if I can have a bed yet but looks good. I was joined by Nancy, an American yoga teacher, she is here to study some more techniques. There was a spare breakfast going so I took it. The Indians have a hard time waiting to queue, I am surprised any breakfasts reached their destination, so crowded here this morning. Bombay does not look so bad as I imagined, may stick around for a while. Breakfast was good – pancakes, bread, butter, jam, banana and tea. Nancy showed me a dorm room, looks really nice, so fingers crossed I can stay here. Got a bed no problem, bottom bunk. Mooched around for a while checking up on the Lonely Planet guide and after my much needed scrub down, set out. My t-shirt is absolutely disgusting.

Walked around the main shopping bazar looking for the good eating places for tonight and ended up in Leopold’s for a juice and ice cream. Seems like a really cool place and fairly cheap. Felt like sightseeing so went along to India Gate, a huge ornate gateway built to commemorate the visit of King George V 1911.

The dockside used to be the main berthing area in India, hence the name ‘Gateway’, into the Country. I was intending to check out the times and prices of the boats to Elephant Island, an hour’s ride away. I then found myself accepting a 50 rupee ticket and stepping into the boat. I only did this because I saw two other westerners step aboard. I hate being the only one. The ticket read ‘with guide’ but once underway we doubted the credibility of the fact. The boat did take roughly an hour, with stops, bit like the trains in a way. Was a bit choppy too. A young woman sold me a flower wristband; I had no choice in the matter. She looked a bit of a waif, but claimed she had a small baby to look after, no husband though. My company for the day, Richard, was reluctant to part with his money, so she said she would wait for him later, when he had some small change.

It was so hot and the walk up to the caves was exhausting. One thing spoiled the whole atmosphere and that was the commerciality of the place. First you have refreshment areas, not a bad thing, and all the way up the stairs (steps) are stalls on each side selling tacky souvenirs. Even some older women were touting for pictures to be taken of them, presumably for money. The caves are temples dating back to 450 and 750 AD and really are quite amazing.

Huge carvings in the stones depict Shiva in various poses and actions. Spectacular when you consider how long ago they were done and in such detail. The main alter still remains and offerings made.

There must have been such pride in the work then, as in all countries. The only problem here is that nothing is maintained so well. The other caves were smaller in size with lesser statues. In more recent years I would say that pillars have been erected to prevent collapse of the caves and thus preserve for a while longer.

We stopped for a drink and not knowing when the last boat was, returned to the dock. A boat was waiting so got on it, however it didn’t leave for another couple of hours, it seemed anyway, so could have wandered a lot longer around he island. A tropical paradise away from the city. Once the boat was top heavy with people it set sail and it was so nice to have a breeze cooling us down.

At India Gate the evening crowds had gathered. The salesmen were out in force with tempting things like postcards, huge balloons, lovely stuff you just wanted to have. And, the young woman on the boat was there waiting for Richard to pay up. She wanted more from me too. Attempted to wash my t-shirt but still looks awful. One more go should do it. I joined Richard for dinner at Leopold’s. He had fish and chips to help ease the stomach, but i plugged away at the curry. Desert proved interesting. My ice cream was ok, but the yoghurt tasted off. I imagined curd and yoghurt to be the same, now I know different.

My foot is playing up again so will have to do something about it. So tired by 9pm I gave up on the diary and hit the sack.

27 September – Not much of an exciting day, in fact, quite boring and tiring. Changed my 500 rupee note at the American Express Office. Just had to take some piccies of the Horniman Circle with the red double decker buses, so nearly up to date it is unbelievable.

The streets even have proper crossings with the little green man flashing pedestrians across. Found the Prince of Wales museum, again built to commemorate the visit of George V, has a lot to be thanked for in this city I think. The museum is a grand affair with three floors full of a range of things of India and other countries, from stone statues of religious idols to stuffed animals/birds (of a much higher quality to the City Palace Museum in Udaipur), pottery, armoury, jewellery, Chinese porcelain, English Wedgwood, clothes, paintings and mariners exhibits. Very different from most of the museums in India but I still found it dull towards the end. So hot and tired, we couldn’t even take our water bottles in. Spent 2½ hours there. After a stroll around some shops I ended up at Leopold’s for a snack. Too tired to be bothered about anything else at the moment.

Rested for a spell and sorted my next moves out and then nothing. Too late to go out anywhere unless I manage to get to the flicks tonight. My friend in the top bunk never turned up yet so I guess she either went on her own or has found someone else or has gone elsewhere. Decided on dinner in tonight, only 25 rupees. This place is so English you would not believe. Dinner was, soup, faggots, mashed spud and runner beans, with caramel custard for dessert, and the infamous pot of tea. Will try to catch the evening train tomorrow if I can, which will hopefully not make the journey to Goa so horrendous, if I get some sleep that is. We have such a scatterbrain in our dorm, but she is so likeable and funny. Think she has bought out the whole of Delhi clothing industry.

Went for an evening stroll with Nancy and Gloria to a juice bar, where we sat for a while and chatted. Gloria has been in India for 8 years teaching. She comes from Montreal but has an amazing Indian accent. Has to go back soon and will find it a hell of a shock, she has not got a clue. Slowly wandered back to the hostel. I think Nancy may end up with an Indian guy, she seemed quite keen.

28 September – An exhausting day. Wound my way through the streets to Victoria Station via the Horniman Circle and floral fountain.

The architecture here is so nice, but Bombay is also so diverse. Modern against slum, but it works.

Victoria Station reminds me a little of Waterloo in London. The reservations people told me I had to catch a train from Dadar Station and to make the reservation there also. Boarded a local train, 20 minutes out to Dadar, where I was told I had to make the reservation at Victoria. I was so hot and thirsty, I couldn’t believe that something so simple should be taking me so long. As luck would have it the tourist quota was short and I got my reservation in no time. Jan, a girl in our dorm, was also there so she waited and we went off together. Ended up at Leopold’s via the post office. Had some much needed refreshment. Sounds like Goa will be good so looking forward to it now.

I visited the Taj Hotel after, – the bookstore, very nice, very good selection. The Indian dancing tonight is 80 rupees in one of the restaurants, not sure if food is included, nobody to talk to about it. As I was in the building I thought it only right to check out the loos, besides somebody rich and famous has probably parked their backside here too. Were very plush, with toilet paper too.

Stopped off at hostel for a quick breather. Just so I could say I’d been there I ventured out to Marine Drive to the beach.

Took a while through the maze of streets but got there in the end. A nice long stretch to walk along but too hot though. Lined with lovers, beggars, trippers, sellers, all sorts. The other side had a few cricket matches going on. I could have kept going right to the end of the beach up to the hanging gardens but couldn’t be bothered though. Just took my piccies and headed back.

By now the work force were out and headed home. Took a wrong turning and ended up down near a slum area. If the plague was anywhere it would be here.

Had time for a shower before dinner, which I bolted down. Looks like the British tour operators have opted out of India this year due to the plague. Can imagine the panic mounting up back there, think it is slightly out of proportion. Got me a taxi to Victoria and caught the train to Dadar. Trying to find the right platform was a nightmare. I scraped my hand and got caught in a mass rush, I was going one way while everyone else the other. At one point I told them to watch where they were f…ing going, they are like a bunch of animals at times. Literally pushed everyone out of the way to get free. Fortunately my carriage was practically empty so had room to spread, amazes me how so many men can wrangle their way to the ladies compartment. I hopped up to the top bunk and settled down for the journey.

Almost forgot, happy birthday Karen.

29 September – I feel surprisingly clean. Could have slept better but for the fans being on, I could not reach to turn them off. Reached Miraj around 7am. A chap on the train walked me to the bus station, (the track to Goa is currently under repairs or something), he knew too much about me – my name and age, I hate the reservation charts. He asked too many questions and wanted to go for a coffee, however I wanted to find out the time of the next bus to Goa. Luckily it was only five minutes to go and four other girls were on it, so sat with them. I had no water, no food, and needed a pee. Would cost 66 rupees to get there but not directly to where we wanted to go, Colva. I will never choose bus travel unless forced to. It was cramped, hardly any air, bumpy, awful and got filthy from the dust that stirred up. If it were not for the beautiful scenery I would be well pissed off. The grass was the most gorgeous green and the hills rolled on and on, covered in lush vegetation. The road was narrow, bumpy and wound its way around the hills. Would have missed it all on the train.

Arrived Colva around 6pm. My first choice accommodation looked shit from the outside so went along with the girls to suss out theirs – The Fishermen’s Cottages, right on the beach and smelling very strongly of fish. However, the proprietor was not there and seems he hardly ever is so could not check rooms there either. Just down the road was the Skylark, an upmarket joint, rooms for 150 rupees plus tax. These were ok for the rest because they could cut the costs. I was offered a room at 126 rupees but still too expensive for one person. Ended up back at the drop off point by myself and at the Rodsons Cottages, they had one room at 50 rupees.

Was at the back with no view and very dark but it was also very clean, so I took it. I can always look again tomorrow. Never knew just what a pleasure showering is, to feel clean and fresh is a wonderful thing. I also left my clothes to soak but will get some wash powder tomorrow. Had a meal here at the hotel, the people sound megga grumpy so heaven knows what I’ll be eating. Never been so ready for bed in my entire life.

30 September – Happy birthday daddy.

Woke early but could have stayed longer, hard to know what it is like outside, I have no window to let light in, I have a window but it opens to an alley. Breakfast was good, banana porridge , must learn how to do it. Turns out Richard is staying here too, what a coincidence. Looked through the paper today. Flights are being suspended too and from India. Am thinking when I do come to leave, they may wish to do a medical check. Have five weeks for it to all blow over. Richard rang home today and they do not seem worried at all, the reports are not so bad as we thought. Headed for the beach after I did some shopping and had a drink.

The beach here is quiet but didn’t look so clean to me. The animals rummage on it, the fishermen leave their catches to rot, but in for a penny in for a pound.

As soon as I set foot in a clearing the leaches come a sucking. Jewellery, clothes, everything. You could stay on the beach all day and never have to go out to buy your presents. I had this jewellery lady doing her utmost to see me stuff, it was very reasonable but I do not want any right now. Then they try to make you promise them a sale tomorrow. The only thing I bought were oranges, and very nice they were too. I managed after about any hour or so to grab five minutes on my own to write home. I bought a beach mat to save my towel. The sun was hot so tried to get shade where I could. My letter to mum and dad took some time so I didn’t get to do the postcards. I could have gone for a swim, it looked so inviting, not crystal clear though. Had too many things with me to leave lying around. After a couple of hours I gave in and trundled back to the hotel, bumping into the girls on the way. The food sounds like crap where they are, made me feel better. I left them with a crowd of leaches following on, I wish them fun.

The washing was going amazingly well, I put the white t-shirt in again. Waited for the heat of the day to cool, took a shower and went to post my letter. The village looks almost non-existent but has all the amenities.

At 4pm the children were still in school, is a big school too, I bet most of the children from here go there, does not look like much poverty. Have really burned my legs today. Came back and got stuck into my diary, postcards, but never got around to my letter to Kevin. Have developed a sore throat which is annoying, concerning too, put it down to the dry conditions on the bus journey yesterday – no water ‘n’ stuff.

Joined Richard and a few others at the Pasta Place down the road for dinner. Very popular hence the long wait for food. We had a good evening chit-chatting about this and that. David and Michelle are planning on emigrating to Australia, they seem to love the place. Think they are the types to go, love to brag about everything. ‘In Australia we did this, they have that.’ ‘In Thailand they do, we did.’ Very affected by everything. ‘Ok’ people but wouldn’t want to spend too much time with them. Supposed to be going down the Chinese tomorrow night. Will try to get up early for a walk tomorrow.

1 October – Feels like the big count down now to going home. Didn’t get my walk, too lazy. Bad news on the home front, some cases of plague in the UK, I can see us being muzzled and caged for 6 months quarantine.

Was out by 9.15am and walked, I think, almost to Benaulim and plonked myself down.

To be met by the deluge of vendors was to be expected. My fruit lady had no oranges today, so settled for bananas. Trying to write my letter to Kevin was a chore, every five seconds being badgered. I was followed to my spot by a jewellery lady who I tried to get rid of but ended up looking at it all anyway. Just a moment to myself that is all I desire. She had some really nice things and in particular some nice toe rings, much better than my promised lady. I gave in and bought one for 100 rupees, still over the top but cheaper than her asking price. Looks every so nice and feels more comfortable than I imagined. Finally had some time to myself so laid back to soak up the morning sun, the beach is deserted today. Have no idea what the time is, I left all valuables back in my room. Broke my gold chain first thing, must be doomed, feel lost without it, is kind of like my lucky charm. Tried to read but was easier to just lie there and try not to burn. The ogglers were out in force today, I watched as two men stood by the water’s edge, exactly where a bikinied women was emerging from the water. Their eyes never left her for a moment, felt like saying something. The Indian women out here really have a low opinion of Indian men and is it any wonder, they all have one track minds. They also screw around a lot, it is against the law to talk to an Indian woman unless marriage has been settled and because western women do not come into the laws we become great objects of desire. The only problem is that they imagine all we want to do is drop our knickers to them. They just haven’t got a clue of what is right and wrong. Some drastic change needs to occur.

I lasted until around 1pm and came back for a shower. The rest of the gang had only just surfaced. I pottered for a while before going back to the beach to pay for my ring. Had to go right up to where I was originally sat, she must have been somewhere along the beach but damned if I could find her. Had the company of a dog whilst I waited, much nicer than the mange infested thing this morning and less of a crowd than the herd of cows. Eventually she came along with her crowd of helpers and I was able to pay and escape. The sun was clouding over by now so most people were enjoying the break from the hot sun. I like this time of day, everyone mellows out and I can relax to write my diary. Will post the cards and letter tomorrow, have had an expensive enough day as it is. Paid back my 2 rupees, which I think they were surprised at, so all square now. I can go back there and eat without a guilty conscience.

My book, ‘The unbearable lightness of being’, is not so interesting, but I find it compelling to read. Can’t seem to find the point of it all at the moment.
The power cut tonight lasted over an hour, so we sat in the lamp light waiting. Wanted to get to the Chinese, absolutely starved. Eventually got there and had to wait for a table, but it was worth it , even treated myself to pudding. There was a new disco opened tonight, so we ended up all traipsing over to have a gawp. Cost 50 rupees to get in so some had a quick look for a laugh, don’t think I missed out on much.

I always find I need a pee desperately by the end of the evenings, I nearly didn’t make it tonight. Our Dickie is having nightmares over his money situation, can’t cope with budgeting. Funny really because I found out later he just graduated from Oxford University with a maths degree.

Current day thoughts

The plague situation was a bit hit and miss in terms of correct information but I think lots of precautionary measures were in place. Tourists were advised to invest in some medication, can’t remember what, so sales of that were good for a time. I never did get any. I had heard that Goa was a safe place to go, plague free, so that was my plan, but not before stopping in Bombay (Mumbai nowadays). The rail route went by the town of Surat where the outbreak of plague was reported to have started from in the area. The train never stopped there, the station was all boarded up, nobody allowed in. I didn’t get questioned by anyone in Ahmedabad as I did on my first journey through. Then they wanted to know where I had come from, where I was going. I didn’t know then about the plague situation. By the time I got to Bombay I wasn’t worried at all and nobody was panicking. Were there cases of the plague in UK, not sure about that one.

Living now as I do close to a railway, I realise that smut in the air is the norm when it comes to trains; it gets everywhere, indoors and out.
The Salvation Army Hostel, what a great place. It was very close to the very posh Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. If I had told the taxi drivers that I wanted to go there they would have been falling over themselves to accommodate me. The hostel still exists today. For a dorm bed now you pay around £5-6 a night with breakfast included, back then I paid around 75p for the night, which included my breakfast and I also managed to get an evening meal. There were some coach loads of school kids staying there as well, so I often wonder if the people running the hostel thought I was with that party and so gave me the same rate. I arrived at a busy time with lots of people running around getting breakfast, I think they weren’t concentrating too much and wanted to get everyone sorted as soon as they could. I didn’t complain and the food was brilliant. Beds adequate but not wonderful, but who cares, I felt safe there.

What a joy meeting Richard, he was 21 at the time and was a source of great amusement at times. Dealing with the food and the costs were his most challenging issues. I remember the yoghurt tasting incident. I can’t remember if the menu advertised it as yoghurt or curd but either way it came as curd, which has a much stronger, tangy, taste than the smoother tasting yoghurt. He maybe got it changed once or twice before deciding it wasn’t for him and he got really upset about it but on this occasion paid for the purchase. I just laughed. Goa proved no exception. Richard, if you ever read this, thank you for making my experiences in India more enjoyable. More on him later.

I think I was in the mood for being more generous to the vendors who constantly bugged you to buy from them. They never forgot a face. It was less hassle to buy something cheap and I think by then I knew more about my cash flow and what I could or couldn’t afford.

Bombay was the first place I encountered that had similar things to the UK, such as the red buses. It really was a mixed city in terms of ancient versus modern and traditional versus outside influence. A very forward-thinking city back then and probably more so now.

I remember both Gloria and Nancy. I guess Nancy got to Pune to do her yoga and I hope Nancy is happy wherever she is. Was good to be around Gloria who was living in India and knew all the best places to go. Bombay felt safe though even on my own.

Leopold’s did well out of me.

Of course, I made to obligatory visit to the posh hotel just to have a nosey and to use the loo. I don’t think I looked the part though in my ragged clothing. Again, nobody challenged me so it was ok. I never got to see the dancing.

The slum area I happened upon when coming back from Chowpatty Beach was not the largest slum area in Mumbai, thankfully. Not sure what I would have encountered there. Would have been an interesting excursion to see. I guess I will never know now.

Having spent a lot of time commuting in London I realise that the morning and evening rush hour stampedes are the same here as in India, and I think the same worldwide. Every person for themselves.

The railway track on my journey to Goa just seemed to run out so the bus was the only way of getting there. Did I use the loos before we started the bus journey to Colva, I can’t remember, but use one I did. It was just a shack with not even a hole in the ground, just a pile of poo which you had to squat over in order to go. Not pleasant but needs must.

The hoteliers in Goa were actually very nice in the end.

I have had banana porridge since, Trevor’ mother made it for me in Jamaica, it was nice but not the same as in India. I will have a go at it myself one day.

I didn’t dare to wear a costume or bikini on the beach in Goa as there would be too much skin on show for the local young men to ogle, and ogle they did to all the ladies who did. I appreciate that not all Indian men are without good moral standards but as I have mentioned before, it just feels that way when you are in the situation. I would love to go back just to see how things are now.

My sore throat I believe was not due to the dry conditions of the day before, but from lying on the beach, but I will cover more of this soon. I did have a small herd of cows go by at one point so I can only imagine what wonderful germs were in the sand.
I understand ‘The unbearable lightness of being’ now more than you will ever know.

The discotheque – I don’t think there were any women except for western women and not many at that. It was an experience though.

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Week 37 – 2 October to 8 October
2 October – Happy birthday Andrea.

Had a proper lie in today, it is Sunday after all. Decided to eat out for breakfast and the rest of the crowd were out so joined them. Felt really hungry not long after so may go elsewhere tomorrow or get back to the porridge.

Wandered onto the beach and completely forgot about leaving my jewellery and stuff behind and no water either. Plonked on the beach with Mike and Georgie, was hot but a little while won’t hurt, after a while Richard and Colin came along and we hurtled into the water for half an hour. Was really nice just sitting there letting the waves lap over you. I managed to land myself with a pineapple but it was so nice, worth the high price, a mega 30 rupees. Seems more quiet on the beach today, perhaps because it is Sunday or not so many people down here. Do not get so much hassle either. Had to come back to get some dosh for the pineapple, the girls are still around, Marie is ill today. They wanted to know the best places to eat, can’t believe they are still eating at the Skylark. When I came back, M, G & C were heading off to a swimming pool for a change, I hung around on the beach for a while longer. Looks like my route is going to be similar to Richards’, could team up. He may go off with Colin though. The natives think that we are a couple anyway. Have noticed that perverts hang around all morning when everyone is sunbathing, and as soon as everyone has gone, they all go swimming.

No electric again for ages, still had a shower ‘n’ that. Going to Vasco tomorrow and hopefully the others will find out about a safari or something along those lines. Hate the time between 4pm and 8pm. When it is light you can sit outside and read, really horrid stuck in my little dark pokey room. Nobody wants to eat before 8pm and there is nothing else to do around here. Being a Sunday, a lot of the places are closed and it is also the anniversary of Ghandi’s death today, which makes it doubly exciting. The power cuts were bad tonight, every five minutes, had to give in in the end and shower in the dark and get ready. Richard feels like doing some voluntary teaching here, which would be good, but the thought of the plague has put doubts in the way.

Dinner was a disaster, not sure of the name of the place, but not going again. The orders were late in being taken, late in coming (if they came at all) and most tasted awful. The late comers decided to eat elsewhere and Richard walked out without paying. I definitely had an early night tonight. Still a lot of plague talk.

3 October – Bloody power cuts, would have gotten away much earlier but for that. As it was didn’t catch a bus until 10.30am.

To Margao was short and comfy but to Vasco I had to stand and although I did not get so sticky, was very cramped and I got very irritable. They have no more sense than fly. At Margao I posted my cards and letter. The train station was easy to find in Vasco, however just as I got there it closed for lunch – bastards. Wandered to the tourist info place but couldn’t get anything to eat, looked like an official lunch or wedding reception. Bought some choccie again, naughty, and biscuits, really healthy. Noticed a couple in the pharmacy making enquiries about the plague, they may even have purchased some pills. Stayed in the railway office until it opened. Caught a bloke staring at me so shouted at him. Forgot my Indrail pass so couldn’t have booked if I wanted to. Get the impression I can reserve a seat at Margao but have my doubts, nobody seems to be on the ball today. Went away less than satisfied and nearly forgot my wallet. Back to the tourist place just to ask if they had any advice to give travellers with regards to the plague. Fell on deaf ears, how surprising. Sometimes wonder how people manage to get these public relation type jobs. Had enough of Vasco by then so waited for the bus and had to shout at another leerer. Was allowed on well before it left so got a good seat. Margao was hell trying to find the right bus and had to stand again for most of the way. Can’t believe such a simple task today could cause so much hassle and take so long. 6pm before I got back.

My left foot needs chopping off.

Dinner was a bit more of a success tonight, only the bill caused problems. Our Dickie does lose his cool quickly.

Lots of UK tour operators pulling out of India, stupid when you think about it. Those people have booked onto nice cosy package holidays where they will spend most time around a swimming pool and never come in contact with an Indian. Us poor bastards living our lives with them, get forgotten. I would love to write to the government when I get back.

4 October – Panic now over, the papers look good this morning, tough tits to those who have cancelled. Find waiting for my hair to dry a real pain, can’t put it up until dry. Feel like I am healing now, the cold is clearing, bites fading, just have this huge spot like creature on my chin.

Made and impulsive decision today, I would buy some trousers, they had a few new stalls just over the road. Ended up haggling over the price of the first pair I looked at, didn’t really like them that much but she had such a poor selection. Got pink and blue tie dye type colour. She tried at 250 rupees to start but I said I only had 80 rupees to spend. The price eventually came down by the 50s to 150. I stood my ground and when I told her I would think about it and walked off, the price amazingly dropped to 80 rupees. Always the first business of the day. So not only did I have gross pairs of trousers that fit terribly I had to sew up a hole in the seam before I could wear them out.

Hit the beach just before noon, no decoration today. The sun is a little clouded over so will not be so hot. Finally told my jewellery lady I did not want anything, my fruit lady that I had a dodgy stomach today so could not eat anything, and loads of others to take a hike. I think when they have seen you around for a while you don’t get so bothered. Had a good day in the sun and shade, reading my book. A couple of goats came by today rather than cows. Mike and Georgie went by, but I was so comfy I did not want to move.
Had the usual freshen up and went on a photo shoot. Should have wandered into the village but never had the energy. May be tomorrow. Splashed out on an ice cream only to be told by my hoteliers that it is not good stuff. Getting through my book pretty quickly, think I could read some more of the same type, more interesting and thought provoking.

Dinner was excellent, we all went to Johnny’s, had the place to ourselves, good food, good laughs and it was Mike’s birthday, so good cake. Who cares that it was raining. Looks like I am not the only one who has come away leaving everything (almost) to go home and start again. The dawning of a better generation is happening.

5 October – Could be going to a flea market today in Anjuna, don’t want to buy anything but would be good to see something different. No show of people yet though. The power has been off for nearly two hours now. No idea where Dick had gone so wandered along the beach to see if anyone was about. Bumped into my fruit lady, which is the last thing I wanted, I promised I would buy a melon today. Walked as far as I could until I saw a way out to the road, silly really to avoid paying 20 rupees for a melon. Was hot but turned out to be a pleasant walk. Reminded me of the narrow winding roads in Devon, only no hedgerows.

Would be really quiet if you were to stay here, so out of the way and so green. This is where all of the villagers must live and in some quite nice houses for Indian standards. Was a bit concerned that I might be on the wrong road but kept going, would have been good to have a bike. Still early when I got back, still no sign of anyone so went along to Silver Sands to the swimming pool, had to pay but was nice just for an hour reading my book in peace and quiet, only here you get Europeans looking at you also.

Have to get to Margao to make my reservation so waited for the next bus. Tried a fresh coconut for the first time. The milk to start, quite a filling drink and then the coconut, of which there was not much. It was soft too, but very nice, wanted it to be a thicker coating. Could easily walk to the station at Margao but think I will get a rickshaw when I have my luggage. Prayed I would be able to book here with my rail pass. Thankfully I could. Am guessing I am in the tourist quota section because it turns out that Richard is in the same one, which is good because we can go to the station together.

Pissing with rain again so looks like another night under cover eating. Will leave packing until tomorrow, not sure what to do all day. Sounds like I may have to face up to the melon tomorrow, will make some excuse or other. Didn’t like my curried fish tonight, shouldn’t have had the full packet of bourbon biscuits.

6 October – A lazy day, got up late and made the rucksack up again, really didn’t know what to do all day. Ate a mega breakfast to keep me going all day.

Everyone else is going on the beach, but I don’t want to get all sticky in case I can’t clean up before tonight. Got ripped off with my melon, had to buy it though, nice one too. Spent a good four hours just lazing and reading, actually finished it and still none the wiser of its true meaning. The whole gang were there today, about 11 altogether, managed to get a photo and one of the fruit girl. Got her address but she doesn’t know how to spell so doubt I got it right. They are all such nice young people, really friendly and happy, glad I didn’t take my earlier advice. Thankfully I was able to shower back at the ranch, after which I set about off-loading some bits. Did a near swop with my book, had to pay a bit extra for another and got a whole 5 rupees for my beach mat. Just about ready to leave now and it is only 5pm. Changed a traveller’s cheque, read, got changed into travelling gear, farted around a bit and then we set out for Dinner at Johnny’s. Will be hard leaving the tranquillity of Goa but have to look at it from a realistic angle.
At 9pm said the goodbyes, probably never see any of the guy’s ‘n’ gals again, who knows. The rickshaw man was waiting for us, quite a luxury one with doors and curtains, a real treat. Looks like we are the only westerners on board tonight, glad I am not on my own. Settled down with my luggage to a good night’s sleep.

7 October – He of the bitten flesh, erupting volcanic lips and urinated air, is moaning again. He never stops moaning. Had a long wait at Hubli whilst engines were changed, a really gloomy day so far.

Seemed to take ages for no apparent reason. Gadag Junction was interesting, I don’t think many westerners can come through there. No sooner than we had settled ourselves down we were surrounded. Young, old, men, women, children, just incredible that two people could stir up such interest. Some wanted to talk, the children just want to know your name and others simply stared. Richard showed photos of his family around, they were popular. One thing you can be guaranteed of is an interest in your family. Next were the polos, once one was shown how to dispose of it properly, everyone wanted one. They sell them over here but I guess not many people eat them. I had breakfast on the station, nothing nutritious but filled a gap. Once on the train and at a couple of stops the youngsters peered through the bars on the window, all wanting your name, pen or British coins and then when we set off there was shaking of hands (which were often washed). One little bastard pinched me. My face is well erupted, have no idea what the thing is festering there.

Arrived Hospet about midday, surprisingly refreshed and clean., looks like a pokey little place. Tried to get singles at the poshest hotel in town, no go, doubles were expensive, I would be prepared to share a room but think Dickie likes his own space. Shown some lodgings, they looked like shit. Eventually, after viewing yet another hell hole, ended up at the Milligi Tourist Place. Lonely Planet had a lot to answer for where Hospet is concerned. We got a room each, doubles with no room to swing a cat, and smelly toilets, but it was better than some. The rip off price wad 95 rupees, tried to tell us check out by 7am but they can piss off, says 24 hours on the board. Dinner was nice and sleep was even nicer. I did go back to one or two places before dinner in case we needed a room for tomorrow, but no luck, the Vishwa said come back in the morning.

8 October – Would have been Pop’s 85th birthday – God bless sweety.

The nice friendly staff here could not put us up for one more night, so therin lay another problem. Our other little problem is an uprising in Bangalore. People shot over some karnataka statement, buses burned, shoot to kill orders and curfew. Just the best news of the day. Of course Richard did his panic bit but I think I will go straight to Mysore, the connecting train in Bangalore can’t be that bad. After a long traipse around town hunting down lodgings, most of which were crap, we ended up at the posh place again. No singles but doubles at 130 rupees. To my surprise Rich agreed to share a room, it’s only one night after all. The room is really nice and clean too, with balcony. The streets are well dusty outside and the heavy traffic does nothing to supress it. You should have seen the two of us stuck on a cycle rickshaw, with luggage, knees up around our ears, well funny. By midday we were ready to see Hampi, bit of a wasted morning really.

Hampi is a small village with one street running through it, set to the north of the ruins. The once city dates back to 1300s through 1600s and houses a number of fascinating temples, spread out over a vast area. Makes Stonehenge look pathetic. I imagine the area to have been the foothills to the prevailing hills, now is piles of boulders, some huge out on their own, which almost look as though they were put there by human hand. Is a well weird site but very beautiful in a way. Got here at the wrong time of day for wandering, so hot. The main temple, Virupaksha, was magnificent. The entrance being a huge (tall) spire shape with intricate carvings all over.

Definitely Hindu. However, it was not open until 3pm so would save it to last. It is possible to see the ruins in two halves so will come back tomorrow for the southern sector. Walked along the road we came in on to a cluster of temples, some huge, some small. Have no idea why they needed so many. Perhaps because there are so many idols under Hindu or families preferred their own. Each had its own design carved out, they paid so much detail to it back then, some are still in good condition.

However, a lot of the locals use the temples as houses or for parking motor cycles so you don’t always feel able to go in. One particular structure had a statue of Ganesh but it was crowded with people lounging around. Would have liked to have seen it. Loads of palm trees and banana plantations around. Headed back to the main bazar for refreshment and then along the river to other sites. Quite a remarkable area to see, piles of rocks everywhere and temples dotted around. some people even now had a home in one of the caves. I think there are too many to see all at once and some insignificant, could have walked for miles. Nice views from the Siva temple.

Whilst there three persons came jangling by. A woman and a young girl were togged out for dancing and a guy banged his bongos. They wanted 50 rupees for the performance, we settled for 20. However, it was difficult to take it seriously and besides we did not know the story. I think our lack of interest didn’t go down too well.

Another couple had come along by then so may be they had better luck. The main Virupaksha temple was open by now so slowly made the way back.

Not before passing an avenue of cloister like structures the opposite end. Had to pay for this one and remove shoes, still in operation I think. The ground was so hot beneath my feet and I hate getting them dirty so was not impressed. The inside was ok but run down, noticed some renovations going on in one corner, or possibly reconstruction. Lots of little nooks and crannies as usual, and beggars. One guy blew a post horn for us and expected cash, the nerve of some people. These temples are the sort of India you come to see, can be a bit boring sometimes, real life on the streets is better, but the old ways seemed so much more elegant and refined. Waiting for the bus was amusing with all the little kiddies running around us. They all want the empty water bottles, but you never know what they will do with them. Is quite funny to see the faces when you stamp on it, no good to them then.

Back to exciting Hospet. Will have another day at Hampi tomorrow and catch the evening train to Mysore. Didn’t enjoy dinner so much, the noodles were awful. My first night in India with a strange man in my room. The Bangalore issue has not reached home.

Current day thoughts

My fruit lady was very persistent but also very nice, she did quite well out of me. The funny thing is, she would cut up the fruit and it generally got shared around if I was with a crowd, and she would eat some too, cheeky mare. I did give her a small purse so she had something to keep her money in.

With a group of people to swim with I felt safe from wandering eyes and it was a treat to be able to use the facilities at a hotel with a pool, though I can’t remember if I went swimming or not, just nice to be out of the madness for a while.

Richard was definitely a panicker, or was he just level headed; either way he always opted for safety first in regards to destination choice. The night he walked out of the restaurant without paying was to do with some mashed potato. It wasn’t nice fluffy mashed potato, more fluid in texture. He was not impressed and got quite shirty. On 3 October I think the bill came totalled with everyone’s orders and he tried to get an itemised bill for just himself. Did it work, I can’t recall. I just remember laughing a lot. I can only imagine his budget was tight or he likes everything to be done fairly.
Travelling on the bus to Vasco was clearly much the same as travelling on public transport in London.

What was it with my left foot? I still have it today and it is fine.

The plague clearly had an effect on Indian tourism at the time. Lots of advice on not going but little for those of us there except for the medication if we wanted it. I never did write to the government. I guess precautionary measures are better than none at all.

I think the dawning of a better generation belongs to the next one on from me sadly. Not sure how better, perhaps more out there to go for and more belief in being able to achieve.

One thing about India is, if you are getting rid of your old stuff there is always someone who can use it. Was glad to just give stuff away but also happy for swaps and cash.

Don’t ask me who it was complaining on the train to Hospet, I really can’t remember. Could have been Richard I suppose. Seems I had my own health problem brewing, all the blemishes on my face at least were developing into something.

At some point I invested in some incense sticks to burn in my hotel rooms if they smelled bad; they were worth every penny, especially in Hospet.
Hampi is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance, but beware of strange people jumping out of the bushes.

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Week 38 – 9 October to 15 October

9 October – Got up well before Richard so as to get to the bathroom first, worked out quite well actually. Had breakfast in the most useless of places, no eggs, no tomatoes, what choice is there left for breakfast. I had banana porridge which was nice but poor old Ricky got lumbered with dry toast and jam. He bottled out of going to Mysore because of Bangalore but I am still going, it’s only the railway station after all. Instead he is going to Madras direct tomorrow, which meant finding another room for the night.
That done and the train station, we were set for the second half of Hampi, this time standing and getting off at Kamalapur. Fortunately the day was cooler and overcast. Seemed like we would have to walk miles to get around so chose the main cluster of monuments.

This is where the centre of the Empire lay, with a fortress wall around it. The temples were much of a muchness, but still has some wonderful carvings on them.

Most of the land around is used now as farmland with cows being allowed to roam around some monument, not even the cattle grid could deter one, he jumped over it. Nice peaceful area. Stopped on a few occasions in the shade to reflect on things. Think one couple came up to the temple for their weekly bash, they got quite friendly. Not in the mood today for any conversation with the locals, became quite hostile which was a but rude I suppose. If they would only think of something more original to ask. What is your name? Which country?, gets to you after a while. Even if you just say your name they say thank you and walk off, what’s the point in that. Ended up just saying stupid things to get rid of them. The sunken baths were interesting, I can imagine the life style to be that of the Egyptians or even the Greeks, however the lay out is as Roman appearance, not like anything I have seen before. The royals used to hang out here. The whole area covers approximately 35kms. The main thing that I wanted to see was the elephant stables. To get to them you have to walk through a pleasant courtyard area, some of the monuments here had been renovated and cleaned up for preservation’s sake. Must have had a load of elephants, the stables were huge and quite impressive.

Disappointing was the underground temple, not so much underground as sunken. Too many cows down there to feel safe, those horns look lethal. Hung around for a while just looking and chatting and moaning and headed back to Kamalapur (um/n).

Enjoyed the day, was a refreshing change to sightseeing in the cities and from smelly old Hospet. Managed to get seats on the way back. The hotel was good enough to give me a room to freshen up, I never took my bags up though, stupid really. Still could have a pee and wash my face and feet; figure I don’t need to be too clean for the trains. Bet I look like shit tomorrow. Would like to be leaving the same time as Richard and go to the same place; like the company for a while. May meet up again in Madras depending on how it goes. I want to stay in Mysore to get some washing done. There is also a festival going on at present which will be good to see, just hope I can find some accommodation when I get there. Will be many people headed that way from all over, is stirring up a plague panic, but I get the impression that has all gone a bit flat now. Had a problem with the bill tonight at dinner, the crafty sods tried to sneak extra on items ordered and then told us we had an old menu. Pull the other one lads. Richard blew his lid and finally got his own way, turned out to be about 30 rupees over the top. Said our farewells and I shot into the distance on a cycle rickshaw.

Seems I actually have women to sit by on the train, a miracle.

10 October – Was having a good day until I got to Bangalore. Just missed the 7am train to Mysore so had 1½ hours to wait, had a platform breakfast, bread omelette. Was getting close to 8.20am and no sign of the train, so checked up. I had been sent to the wrong platform, had five minutes to get back across. The train was so crowded you wouldn’t believe so had to stand for a while. Tried to get someone to put my luggage up on the rack, the men are as much use as a chocolate teapot. A nice lady budged so I could plonk myself down. Read my book to save staring for 2½ hours. Was suggested that my eruptions on the face are something to do with the spicy food.

At Mysore station you couldn’t move for people, all here for the Dussehra Festival. A room was set aside in the St John’s Ambulance Brigade to filter all those from northern cities to check for plague symptoms. Good idea but doubt many complied to it. Loads of people getting off at Bangalore, think all of that has tapered off a bit. Wonder where old Richie is now. Was accosted by a rickshaw man so trundled to his carriage. Next thing I know I was being kicked out by a policeman and told to go and queue, like they really make it clear at the start. Another driver laughed at me so I went over and gave him a piece of my mind and slapped him. Soon wiped the smile off of his face. The policeman was no better himself. The first choice hotel was a bit steep, no singles for a change, took it anyway because some others there recommended it and told me other hotels were full, expensive or dirty. Guess with all of the crowds I have little choice. Room is nice I have to admit, 125 rupees plus tax. Now I can do some washing. Slept most of the afternoon and nursed my wounds.

The big procession scheduled for Thursday has been cancelled in town due to plague scare and will be held at the palace, so will be limited numbers, doubt I’ll get in. May be see if anyone else is going from here.

Tried to track them down for dinner but they had already left. Looks like all the restaurants about the place offer thalis and nothing else, service is not so good either and there is also a language barrier with most, which doesn’t help. Had to settle for what I could get, hate to think what breakfast will be. Mysore is a fairly good place to wander alone.

Can’t help thinking time is running out for me, so should start making the most of it. There is trouble in the Gulf again, imagine it will be stamped out pretty quick though. Who knows what Sadaam has been up to in the past few years. Would be a real bummer for Stephen if he got sent out before the end of this month.

11 October – A bad start, had a slanging match with my breakfast restaurant. They would not accept a stuck together 50 rupee note (I didn’t notice it), but I stood my ground and got my own way in the end. That put me in a mood for a while.

On the way to the Jaganmohan Palace (art gallery) I happened on the Devaraja fruit and veg market. Quite the hive of activity, a bit like the markets of Melbourne or Covent Garden, only much more compact with narrow passages and it was enclosed within a wall. Tons of fresh veggies of all kinds, spices, fruits, hardware, jewellery and nick nacks, and a row of beautiful flower sellers, displaying a colourful array of garlands. Also loads of incense sticks, of which I purchased a packet with matches, just in case I get anymore smelly bathrooms. Had a wander through a craft emporium too, no thimbles though. Was told I would stand more chance up north than down in the south. The Jaganmohan Art Gallery was cheap to get in, but I wouldn’t say it was that interesting. Old un-looked after furniture, china, pictures of the royal family through time and British military figures. A picture by S.L. Haldankar quite a popular painting by all accounts, called ‘Glow of Hope’ by, is on display, I am told it is a famous painting. And to cap it off, a few sitars, timbales and whistles and stuff. Kept me occupied for a while. Was ready to jack it in for the day but walked around the walls of the palace (Maharaja’s). He has elephants in the garden, one was painted up for the festival. The first live elephant I have seen with tusks. Looks very extravagant within the walls but you have to remove your shoes and I didn’t fancy that, so window shopped instead.

Crashed out for the rest of the afternoon, snoozing and reading and planning. Feel much happier than I did first thing. The Chinese restaurant no longer exists, or if it does it has moved. Ended up along the same road as last night, only a different place.

Thought I would take a stroll down to the Palace to see it lit up. Millions upon millions of people crowded the streets, it was all or nothing crossing the roads.

The whole area is just a carnival atmosphere, balloons, popcorn, whistles, flowers, lights. I think every conceivable building belonging to the Palace was covered in white lights, looked like a fairly grotto, very pretty.

We were actually allowed in the grounds free of charge and, again, hoards of people wandered, sat, ate. A sitar band were playing in front of the Palace entrance and the T.V. cameras were in operation, was getting into it for a while there. The Palace interior looks very beautiful, although nobody could go inside, you could tell from the front entrance. The best palace I have seen to date. Really enjoyed this evening, was good to see everyone in party mood. Bet tomorrow night will be good.

12 October – Happy birthday Amy, 4 today, hooray!

Had my plans spoiled by the bus company. I was up and out by 5.30am and got to the bus station before 6am. Asked for the right bus to Bandipur and waited, the bus never came, so asked again. I was in the wrong place, there is another bus stand elsewhere, by the clock tower. I spent a good hour running around in circles, no help from anyone that was of any use. By 7am I was fed up, would be too late anyway to get there by 9am, what a waste of a day this will be, maybe I could work something out for tomorrow.
Got breakfast, I could have boiled eggs but no omelette, strange how these restaurants work, no jam either despite being on the menu.

Gave in and got a rickshaw to take me to the new city bus stand, he almost did it, but not quite. At least I could now get some reliable information, seems the bus goes at 7am, so may not get there in time anyway, I’ll get there for 6am. Lounged for the rest of the morning. Afternoon, went to bank and train station, may get to Madras on Friday after all. Lounged again in the afternoon, trying to rest my scabby left leg, I think I am winning.

Had the best meal so far tonight in Mysore, I actually gave a tip. To my surprise it was peeing down when I came out, so sought refuge in a shop where I had a good chat with the keeper. He was a bit of a pessimist but still interesting chatting. Seems Mysore is getting a little too big for his liking, happens to the best of towns I suppose. Hope it stays as it is.

13 October – Finally caught the 7am Ooty bus, however had a freaky weirdo following me all the time. I complained to the policeman at the station and words were said to him (not that I understood what they were) and he seemed to trail off, but still lurked. A Dutch couple also got on the bus, so felt a bit better. Had a fairly swift journey and reached Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary just after 9am. The last bus to safari in the morning was already gone. Elephant rides were ongoing until 11am but you do not get to see so many animals as in the bus, so would have to wait until 4pm before heading out. Had some sustenance, such as it was, and waited. The Dutch lady was, amazingly, a nurse and she saw to the would on my leg, which had burst its banks getting here. Nice of her I thought, I should take her with me more often. The monkeys were cheeky, pinching everything in sight.

Whilst reading the newspapers I noticed a lot of bustle around and discovered that a Dasara procession was going to take place around 12.30pm. The elephants, used on the safaris, were decorated with paintings and flowers and balloons and were paraded for the small crowd.

It was a bit like a circus performance but provided us with something to occupy the time. The two baby elephants were quite shy, I only managed to touch the big mammas trunk. The Indian elephants are much smaller than African, they reminded me of the Jungle Book. The trucks went off on their jaunt and the nellies retired. At one point a goat was led across the way, five minutes later it came back, slaughtered, hope it is not dinner for the residents tonight. A lot of the people around the area walk with bare feet, even kicking through the elephant shit. Some Aussies came along, two who live in Bangalore, with a gherkin factory, the others visiting. I got some refreshment out of them, one thing being a vegemite sandwich (surprise).

Before long the bus was here and it was touch and go as to whether the weather would change. If it rained we didn’t go. Thankfully it held off and we had our nearly full hour driving around the park. However not many animals about, the trail does not go deep enough, bit of a swizz for the money it cost. We saw various species of deer, wild boar, bison, peacock and that was about it, very disappointing. Made a day out I suppose.

The next bus was in half an hour, had a pretty hairy journey back to Mysore, too bad if anyone got in the way. The glittering palace was there in all its glory to greet us. Sadly the retiring rooms were full so I would catch the 11.30 train to Bangalore. Not such a comfortable one but it is only 5 hours.

14 October – Got a little sleep on the train, will try and get a little more at the station. The retiring rooms were too expensive so I would have to venture into town. Couldn’t find any from the Lonely Planet and ended up in a cheapy just for the day, it would do for a freshen up at least.

After a few reparations and stuff I ventured out in this riotous torn city, little sign of it though. Had something of a breakfast, changed my tatty notes for new at a rip-off merchants, diddled out on 10% commission, but at least I can use the cash ok. Banks are closed today. Is a little bit cooler now, feels good. Made my reservation for the train tonight, after a long wait and then snoozed back at the hotel until 3.30pm. My wounds are improving but still weeping, I need more dressings. Was raining as we left the station, have had a lot of rain lately.

Only ten days to my birthday, oh woe. Pretty non-event day in all.

Three weeks of my freedom left, then I have to start getting it all together. Hope I still have the enthusiasm to cope. Not sure if it will be best to rest a while at home or go straight into a job. Whichever, it is going to be boring. Have seen the most beautiful sunset tonight, a reminder of the title of my book, ‘Watching the Earth’s Tilt’.

15 October – I think I would rather write this day off as a bad experience. The train ride was fine, got to Hyderabad around 9am, could even walk to the hotels, in the rain. Had the usual rickshaw and hotel touts about me. Settle for a grotty room (clean bathroom though) in the Aspara Hotel.

Hyderabad looks like a something of nothing place, we shall see. Got breakfast by midday at the Taj Mahal Hotel, with prices to match. Tried to get some more dressings for my leg, but all the pharmacies have are small band aids, not quite big enough, guess I would have to see a doctor to get what I want. Made my reservation at the railway to Aurangabad. Should have rested my leg up this afternoon, but decided to check some sights out, a temple in particular a little way out of the town centre.

On the way, past the public gardens, my bandage slipped, so I stopped at the bus stand to re-do it. The gardens were full of drunks and layabouts so didn’t attempt to go in. A drunk sat himself near to me and then edged himself along closer. I was about to move when he slipped his hand around my back. I promptly whacked him around the head and moved to another place to secure my bandage. Continuing my walk I realised he was following me still, try as I might to shake him off I couldn’t. My planned afternoon came to an abrupt end, I had had enough, so sought out a rickshaw to take me back to the hotel. Unfortunately he did not understand where it was I wanted to go and so it gave a chance for my assaulter to catch me up. Not that I was safe in the rickshaw, he tried to get me in there too, so I lashed out at him again. I think he was so drunk it didn’t affect him. The driver tried to shove him away but he was so persistent. A crowd of men watched on but not one offered to help, so as to let us drive away. Finally we did and in the wrong direction, but I didn’t care. Stopped by a policeman and got back on route (almost), back through the smoggy streets. Got dropped at the railway station, close enough. Couldn’t get back to my room quick enough, had a good cry once there and there I stayed until dinner. I can recall Hyderabad being in the ‘Wildlife’ game, think it was one of the forfeit places, I know why now.

I spotted two more westerners coming out of the restaurant tonight, as I went in. I don’t feel so alone now. Do I stay in and rest my leg tomorrow or do I go the fort. Feel like calling Hyderabad just a stopover point and forgetting about sightseeing. Thinking about that chap today, I daresay if he wasn’t drunk he wouldn’t have hassled me, still creepy though.

Current day thoughts

It is always nice to be able to get the things you are familiar with to eat, but when not available it means you have to step outside of your comfort zone and that it a good thing. It was odd though that some of the restaurants lacked a few basic ingredients and to not be able to make me an omelette when eggs were available was equally odd.

Another clash with a restaurant all for the sake of 34p. I was referred to as Kate Aide for wanting to go to troubled area, but a little bit of a risk never does harm every now and them. And that was the end of my acquaintance with Richard. He is hopefully settled into a nice life now. Coming into his middle age years, I hope he is a little more chilled.

I don’t remember going to see the St John’s Ambulance Brigade to check myself out in Mysore and I am glad I didn’t because of my pus-filled wounds; I might never have left. I think the rickshaw man might have thought he would get preference in taking me to a hotel as I was a foreigner, or perhaps he saw a chance to swindle me out of more money than the locals. I wasn’t fully aware of the system in place at the time, but I guess they were trying to police the situation in a fair way. I ended up not taking a rickshaw and walked to my accommodation. I did take a risk in slapping the rude rickshaw driver but I didn’t care, I was wound up by that time. Again, my room seemed expensive but really only about £1.34 for the night.

I remember the first place I attempted to get an evening meal, I couldn’t communicate to them that I wanted to eat and they didn’t seem to be cooking anything up anyway, so I ended up with a bottle of Coke. At one point a bloke just plonked himself at my table when the majority of other tables were empty, so I got up and left.

It seems I was getting quite good at fighting with the natives. It is such a silly custom to not accept the paper money unless it is in perfect order, it is still currency regardless. I wanted to leave the restaurant to go to the bank to change my damaged notes and even said one of their staff could go with me, but they wouldn’t let me leave. In the end I threatened to contact the Lonely Planet guide book people and tell them what a horrible restaurant they had, which meant they might not have made the next publication and, to my amazement, it worked; my money was accepted and I went on my way, and made sure never to go there again. I do hate being in a bad mood.

I wish I could remember being in the presence of the elephants, especially the baby one. Such a privilege. I have vague memories purely from my diary notes, but I wish I could recall how it felt to touch one of them.
I have a thing about walking barefoot unless it is on a carpeted floor.

I believe it may have been Ravi Shankar who was playing it sitar at the festival in Mysore. I had no idea I was in the presence of a celebrity. I can definitely remember being amongst the crowds wandering around.

I think Stephen at the time was due to leave the Army at the end of the October, and having served one term in the Gulf already it was a nervy time. Thankfully he never got sent out again.

There is nothing worse than having nothing to occupy yourself with on a journey, regardless of how short, unless you have a window seat and can watch the world go by. I love the fact that London transport offers the Metro newspaper to save having to stare into space, or worse, at other people.

The bread omelettes from station platforms were actually quite good despite some of the locals advising me against eating them.

Were the eruptions on my face to do with spicy food, not sure about that one as I hadn’t really indulged in what I would classify spicy food.

Glad to have witnessed a torrential downpour in India. Probably not quite monsoon standard but close enough, as far as I am concerned.

The freaky weirdo following me was in fact a young boy. I don’t know how long he had been following me but he wasn’t so good as to not have been caught out. All I know is, he didn’t follow me onto the bus and I don’t recall seeing him again. That doesn’t mean another person didn’t take his place.

My Dutch Florence Nightingale at the wildlife sanctuary carried a good first aid kit. She didn’t like to look of my leg wound and used iodine on it and dressed it. At least her first aid kit came in handy. I recommend everyone takes a health professional on holiday with them.

Of course the goat was for dinner, why else would they have slaughtered it.
Such a strange choice to go all the way to India to run a gherkin factory, I suppose someone has to. Quite a big business in the country by all accounts.
I never got to see a tiger in the wild, I demand a refund. Wouldn’t it have been more fun to ride on the back on an elephant, an experience I doubt I will have the chance to take up again.

What can I say about the drunken idiot in Hyderabad, such is the respect a western woman got at the time, and not one gentleman ready to help me out. It really did ruin a few days for me, however I didn’t realise I had such fight in me, so some good came out of it.

How lucky was I to be in Mysore at the time of a festival. It was never part of my plan when I left the UK, just good timing to happen upon it. Sometimes it is good to just wing it in life because you never know the treasures that will present themselves.

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Week 39 – 16 October to 22 October

16 October – Decided on staying put and resting the leg and other wounds. Would read my book and only venture out for food, I still have to eat.
Had a nice chat with one of the chamber-boys, you never see women doing it. After that, one of the residents, it seems he is of the Christian church religion. I slept for a few hours and was then interrupted by this man again, wanting to swop information of each of our countries. I told him I was too tired, I really wanted to be left alone in truth. Read another chunk of my book.

Am quite anxious over the blemishes on my face, so crushed a salt tablet and rubbed salt in my wounds. If it works I shall try it on my leg.

Have a feeling I may stay a while in Aurangabad and its vicinity, I have a few other places to visit now. My itinerary has somewhat depleted to its original form, I think when I come again I will know better and plan it so.
Out now to dinner in the hope my friend does not hear me sneak by. I actually gobbed in the street tonight.

17 October – Had a fairly sleepless night, but was awake enough by 4am to get myself together. The hotel staff were up to make sure I got away on time, amazing. A rickshaw was waiting outside and although I paid him a little over the top I figured it was an unsociable hour.

My face is healing, the salt worked, will try it on the rest now, which still insists on pusing out.

Got straight onto the train, no hassles, imagined I would be in a flap. The train journey is going fairly quick. I had but a little water as my breakfast and so slept to stave off the pangs. I read a lot too. I was rewarded around midday, an apple from my co-passengers, I could have had a meal but declined. The Indian, who lives in England, has moved by now, I did not care for his tone of conversation. Around 2pm I chose to have a meal offered by the station, I was not aware it would be a Thali served on a platter. I merrily ate my way through it and literally five minutes later the guy was back to collect my plate. I told him I was still eating (through an interpreter) and was promptly told to eat quicker. I shovelled it all in with my fingers, not enjoying the uncivility of the whole thing and ten minutes later he came to collect my tray. The annoying thing is the train did not get going again for another half hour. I have roused a fair interest from a small girl, who shook me by the hand and welcomed me to India, such a sweet thing to do. I held her attention for a while before she disappeared to her seat. Tired of reading I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, you can tell I am heading back to the north again, green and hilly. I wonder that this actually belongs to India. I mentioned to one gentleman that he should venture to the western world just once in his life to compare lifestyles, as I often say to people, however he seemed to think that he could see just as much in India, upon which I implied that we had a much higher standard of living. He either did not understand or was not amused, but he said nothing. It is sad for these people to imagine the whole way of life here (hygiene, housing, civility, etc) is the same all over the world. I am sure if more people saw how it could be there would be more of a stand to improvements. Stopped here at Parbhani. I guess that this is a popular train judging on the crowds pressing to get on. Glad to have my own separate seat. I can’t wait to get to Aurangabad to see to my wounds and to clean up and drink, it is so hot today.

Was met by an enthusiastic hotelier at the station who promised me a clean room for 60 rupees. Not in the Lonely Planet so doubt anyone else will be around. In a quiet place and true enough clean, cleaner than most anyway. Was bombarded with hospitality and so felt happy.

Now to the business of the day, my wounds. I prepared the salt and prepared for the sting and boy did it sting. I tried two or three wounds first and as I was able to bare the first pain I ventured to others, my ankle was by far the worst. Will finish the rest tomorrow, enough agony for one day. I was able to sleep with the sheet comfortably over my legs.

Couldn’t be bothered to shower, would have been too much hassle. Left some washing to soak and retired.

18 October – By George! I think I may have nearly done it. Still a bit pusey on some so added more salt to stave them. The biggy has dried nicely and so too my ankle, and it did not hurt to put my foot to the ground.

Was rudely interrupted by an irritating travel agent, who seemed hell bent on selling me a package tour to the caves. When you have just gotten out of bed at 8am I think it is a bit much. This is one minus point on my comment card, plus the noise in the early hours in the corridors. I have no idea exactly where I am on the map, so breakfast will be a hit and miss effort.
The town seems reasonably quiet. Had to walk a fair way to the tourist information place, along a dusty, smoggy road; actually found them to be very helpful. Came away with the idea that I would go on an organised tour to Ellora and do a day trip to Ajanta and go on to Jalgaon after that. The guy told me to drop into the youth hostel on the way to the bus station, so I did. Looked like a nice place, as it said it would in the book; unfortunately they said they were fully booked until the 21 October, I wonder sometimes. Had I produced my membership card it might have made a difference. Shame because it was closer to the things I wanted. The bus station was even further away than I imagined, had to stop off for refreshment on the way. The bus depot was little help really, couldn’t make it clear as to whether I had to pre-book a tour or not, so will turn up tomorrow and hope for the best.

As I was in the vicinity (ha ha) and so as not to waste a complete day, I made my way to the Panchakki water mill and gardens. A mosque is there too, built in memory of a Sufi saint, required the taking off of shoes so I stayed out. The gardens were a long way out, but it was peaceful to sit a while, no hassles, no noise. The water was tranquilising, the gardens were nothing to speak of, it was just a nice place to get away from it all. Did notice some people go through without paying but for some reason I never got away with it, funny that.

Did not seem so long on the way back, more smoggy though. I developed a real sore throat because of it. Some girls accosted me on the way, from a road side tent village and produced two baskets with charming snakes in them. In return for looking they wanted money and chased me all the way up the road before giving in.

Saw to my wounds again and relaxed before dinner. Saw a funeral procession on the way back, just a swathed body carried on a stretcher and a swarm of men following, not one woman. Strange custom. Feel like giving some of the women a good kick up the ass to wake them up.

Found a pretty posh restaurant to eat dinner, not very good lighting though, dim pink bulbs. Still I had a nice secluded table and the food was good. Service a little OTT and no desserts, despite being on the menu.

19 October – As my leg wept a little last night I will stay put today and rest, which means one more night extra here. Did the treatment again first thing. Was actually not disturbed until around 11am, when the tea boy came knocking. Shortly after one of the hoteliers came by, I think they may have been concerned that I was still in my room. He hung around a little too long for my liking and was quite nosey. He did show some concern over my wounds and suggested a trip to the docs, however, I am confident that they are now on the mend. Really didn’t do anything except read and sleep and plan my trip back to Delhi, should work out just right. Will venture out for dinner tonight and see how we go tomorrow. Can’t say as I mind missing out on the smoggy streets today.

Daresay I shall regret dinner tonight, went to the Premium Popular Punjab and had chicken. Looked disgusting, tasted ok, don’t hold out too much hope, even the Limca tasted odd.

Got some Donald Duck plasters and some antibiotic cream, the pharmacist reckoned I need only use it one, hope he is right.

20 October – Awoken during the night by the throbbing in my legs, needed the aspirin. Not sure if it is the cream working, but they don’t half sting. Had to cover them over before going out, with my Donald Duck plasters.
Wore my boots today, which may be a big mistake. Caught the bus, no hassles, however I am the only westerner on the tour. Get the impression that all the others are from the same place on a holiday from work.

Unbeknown to me the tour took in a number of places throughout the day, so little time spent at Ellora. Our first stop was at the Daultatabad, a fortress of the 14th century, a brilliant achievement by all accounts. It was never captured, due to the devilish schemes designed to foil or kill the enemy. The moat was filled with crocodiles, pails of boiling oil awaited anyone who got further and in turn those bodies got fed to the crocs. Really enjoyed the commentary on this one. The complex was actually the capital of India for two years. Next were the Ellora Caves, of which there are 34, however, we got to see about 6, a real rip-off. The Jain temples were the last to be constructed, but were the first we saw. Much like you would expect a temple to be, ornate carvings, with the centre piece being that of the god worshipped, only is carved from within the rock. The outer shrine was carved from one piece of stone. The Hindus were next in line. We saw the biggest one and mighty impressive it was too. We were told it was representative of a chariot, I think various descriptions suit, I guess with a little imagination you could see what they meant. Not all of the caves were temples, many were monasteries inhabited by Buddhist monks I presume. My legs were tiring by now so I declined the walk to the third floor, I was not the only one either. The Buddhist caves were last and I think I am right in saying that the biggest was carved from one single piece of rock, starting at the top. Was so hot and weary by the end I could have come back to the hotel, however we still had more to see. Being the only whitey on the tour I did attract a certain amount of attention. Lunch break was welcome, ducked away from the rest and enjoyed a disgusting thali down the road. Can’t really recall the attractions we stopped at on the way back, they were that interesting. A temple, a Moghul ruler’s burial place, Aurangabad I think. The mini Taj Mahal was ok, although not a patch on the real McCoy. It was built for a mother in preference to a wife and is a mix of marble and stone. Looks fairly impressive from a distance with the gardens stretching before it, but up close you can see it desperately needs some attention. Was still doubtless impressive in its day. Panchakki was the last so gave that a miss, because I had already seen it. Instead had a chat with some of the local children.

My hotel manager was checking up on me again, nice of him I suppose. Ate at yet another place along station road, very nice too, eventually. Ready to die by bedtime, my legs were agony. A good day but not as fulfilling as I would have liked.

21 October – I woke nice and early and waited for the throbbing rush of blood to my legs, but it didn’t come, I was able to spring out of bed with the greatest of ease. Could this be the beginning of the end?

Was out of the hotel by 7.30 and got a good seat on the bus, although a little cramped with my luggage. Reached Ajanta by 11.15 and was engulfed with sellers, government guides, etc. So, dumped my luggage and dived into the restaurant for brunch. A tour group came in shortly after from seeing the caves. They look as though they are doing it in style. Seems that about 40 other groups have cancelled their reservations at the hotel due to the plague (no more), so business from foreigners is very poor this year.
To the caves, and to think I was going to give them a miss, they look far more interesting than the Elloras. One thing that appeals is the fact that all 29 follow on in close proximity. A lighting ticket was required for 4 of the caves. Not all of the caves were accessible and some not of any interest, however those that were, were just brilliant. All of the caves are set into the side of the hillside with pathways leading around and down to the river running through the middle. These caves have paintings on the walls and ceiling as well as sculptures. Although not of pristine condition, through some restoration, the paintings depict stories connected with the Buddhist religion and its birth. No flash photography was allowed, but I doubt the piccies would have come out anyway. The pictures were full of detail for the era in which they were painted. Some date back to about 600 BC. Statues can become a bit boring after a while especially of the sameness, the paintings were a pleasant change; the setting was perfect too. I would have expected to have stayed until around 4 or 5pm but was complete after a couple of hours, with breaks. The little drinks man hiding in the rocks was a welcome surprise.

Whilst waiting for the bus I managed to evade most of the sellers, I was also offered board at the hotel for 93 rupees with free food as a booster to their flagging trade. Might have been nice but I declined, nothing else to see here except the caves. Was befriended by a family who were also waiting for the bus. The mother-in-law was the one who beckoned me over. I thought she was going to sell me something but was persuaded otherwise. Was given some delish sweets as a welcome. The husband was a teacher and spoke good English, his wife was also a teacher but, as her mother, did not speak English. His wife was very beautiful, he told me they fell in love whilst teaching, quite romantic. I had a good long wait with them and chatted most of the time, also shared the bus ride with them. Nice people, she wanted me to stay with them until her brother-in-law comes over from England and I could travel back with him. Would if I could. Am finding most persons who work abroad are of the medical profession. Have since found out that most Indians try natural healing before a visit to the docs, they only go when in a critical condition.

Reached Jalgaon in a fairly reasonable state, which is more than I can say for the railway station. Smelt of piss all over and it was a dirty, pokey place. Hunted out the retiring rooms, 100 rupees for a dump, but it would do for the night. Once I am asleep I can’t think about the place I am in. However, had very little sleep, my legs were horrible tonight.

22 October – Was awoken at 3am, half an hour earlier than he said, but I was partly awake anyway. Got myself together by 4.30 and trundled down to the platform to wait. I had no reservation so was concerned about finding a seat, it was an overnight train so would be people sleeping still, however I found a seat, whether it belonged to anyone or not was of no matter, it was mine for the time being. At one point I think my luggage encroached on someone’s space but as my journey as much shorter than theirs I could use it for the time being. It was a very hot, smelly train and I was made equally uncomfortable by my weeping wounds. Have some sort of acid indigestion which reacts to the spicy food, why couldn’t I be like the rest and have diarrhoea, would be much easier to deal with. Was befriended by a young lad travelling in the same compartment with his family. He was called Kamil (about the only name I have managed to remember), and is 16 years old. Completely different attitude from anyone else I have spoken to. He likes to wear casual clothes, jeans, denim shirts, etc, mainly I think to spite his mother. Has a girlfriend, I have since been informed that the men do date women here, I will leave an open mind to that one. He wants to go off around the world with his friends and may be work abroad. This could pose a problem from the fact that he has to leave his family behind and would miss them. Not a problem I can relate to. He also hates the idea of arranged marriages. It was very interesting talking to him and makes me hopeful of the future of India, I think it just needs the current older generations to pass on and the newer ideals will happen. If only more people could break away from what they have been brought up to believe from the bygone days. I was entered into his autograph book and we will probably keep in touch.

Will be staying at Jacksons Hotel, a little steep, but I figure it as a birthday treat. The room is ok, not much cop for the price, however there is hot water, the sheets are clean and a towel is provided. Not much else to do for the rest of the day. Tomorrow will be quiet as it is Sunday, so will doubtless be a relaxing one.

Current day thoughts

Whatever it was that got into my system had certainly taken a hold. Owing to the 2 x major outbreaks on my legs I am guessing that something bit me in Goa whilst lazing on the beach, but I cannot be sure. I was quite persistent in not giving into whatever was going on and just soldiering on, complete with Donald Duck plasters. I took salt tablets with me as that was something recommended back then for when in hot countries. The heat depletes the body of salt through sweating, so needs to be replenished, however I didn’t take them, but they did come in handy after all. You often see in those old films when people got back lashings, afterwards salt was rubbed into their wounds to aid healing, well, it really does work, if only on a temporary basis in my case, my wounds came out clean after the treatment; it was a painful experience though. Thinking about it now I could have overdosed on the salt being absorbed into my body, didn’t cross my mind at the time, however with my blood pressure being naturally low I doubt it would have noticed it. Is there such a thing as antibiotic cream, perhaps it was antiseptic.

The Christian gentleman wanted me to go into his room so we could discuss religion, like I was going to fall for that one.

One of my pet hates is people who spit in the street, or anywhere in fact, so I am quite horrified that I did it myself. If you have to do it, do it in the road and not where people have to walk.

I think my train journey to Aurangabad was one of the more interesting ones in that it was daytime travel as opposed to the night-time of generally took, and I had more interaction with my co-passengers. I had my share of bad experiences in India, which swayed my opinions, but really they were outweighed by so may good experiences and kind gestures and I tend to forget that sometimes, like the little girl on the train who came to talk to me and shook my hand, or the offering of food from other passengers and the concerned hoteliers.

It is wrong of me to judge other countries by our own standards. I am sure I have touched on this subject before but we all live by different standards and there are plenty of different ones in my own country. Building a standard infrastructure in a massive country must be a headache, maintaining it even worse, and not everyone will want to be a part of it. If you like the life you have then that is ok, if you don’t, push for a different one. It is the same with customs. I understand that women are not banned from funeral services, the main reason for staying away is to do with spiritual reasons, beliefs from long ago which are still practiced. Girl power is strong in many parts of India.

And then I met Kamil on the train to Jalgaon who completely confused what thoughts I might have had on attitudes in India. He was such a modern, forward thinking person, it just goes to show you shouldn’t stereotype a nation. I never kept in touch with Kamil.

When I wrote that leaving family behind and missing them was not a problem I could relate to, I was referring to my never allowing anyone to stand in the way of what I wanted to do with my life. I suppose I can be a little self-absorbed in my own interests at times, forgetting those nearest and dearest around me, but I don’t see why I should have to miss out on exploring who I am because of other people. Call it selfish if you will, I don’t care, however I have tried desperately to break away from the attitudes I was brought up with but I have to tell you it is hard. I am there when it matters. (?)

It was the girls with the snakes that gave up, not me.

I survived my chicken dinner and the fizzy drink.

When I think of how privileged I am to have seen the things I have, I find it funny to have thought that any of my days of travel were unfulfilling, I can only imagine that whatever virus I had running through my body at the time was taking its toll on me and I was simply fatigued.

Another entrepreneur waiting to pounce on unsuspecting tourists.

I often think of the husband and wife teachers who I met on one of the tours. I wonder what more I might have learned by taking up their offer to stay in their home. I will never have that opportunity back again.

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Week 40 – 23 October to 29 October

23 October – A very leisurely start. Had an interesting breakfast. The manager joined me briefly for a chat. Conversation was generally about my impression of Indian people. I did not give many compliments of the men and so he did his best to persuade me otherwise. There were a lot of sexual undertones to the conversation and I took most of what he said with a pinch of salt. He looks like the sort who would persecute women. There is likely to be a doctor on the premises this afternoon so he may take a look at me, hope he doesn’t cost the earth. Will laze around the hotel today, catching up with a few things, oh what an exciting life. Have noticed the weather getting a little cooler in the evenings, the fans make it worse, but if I don’t have them on the mosquitos come around. The doc never turned up which annoyed me a little, but on the other hand I get no hassles. May be try to phone home tomorrow.

24 October – Happy birthday to me!. 31 today, hip, hip, hooray. Will enjoy myself whether I achieve anything today or not.

Got taken to a local doctor, not the one recommended by the hotel manager, but a good one and I dare say, cheaper than the skin specialist. I was seen quickly. Had a few check-ups (weight, temp) and then the examination by the doctor, for which he prescribed the appropriate medicine. Quite painless up to now, I thought, a swift and efficient service. I was then ushered around to the pathology department for blood and urine tests, a moment of panic hit me on the compulsion of these things. I was assured I needed them. Managed to produce some pee, not sure of the sterility of the receptacle though. Did I insist on her using one of my needles for the blood test or use one of theirs. As it turned out I need not have worried, she simply pricked my finger and took a few droplets, an hour’s wait was required for the results, so decided to hang around. The pharmacist killed a bit of time gathering all of my pills and potions. I have so many pills to take every day now, at least 11, 13 on a good day. The surgery was a simple affair with both husband and wife being doctors. Looked hygienic enough and efficient. The only thing I disliked was the openness of it all. There was a reception area, a second consultancy area and the examination room behind that, but each was just partitioned off, so conversation could be easily heard by everyone else. Lucky mine was not too personal. Told them it was my birthday and I could think of better ways to be spending it. Was treated to a pot of coffee as a gesture. The test results came back ok, so I could be on my way. My taxi driver kindly waited and subsequently kindly charged me an extortionate amount. I had already paid out mega amounts by now anyway so what was a bit more.

Forgot to mention that I phoned home this morning, got Kevin out of bed at 6am, not sure he was too impressed. Things sound like they are going ok, he has finally taken a positive step, so am impressed now. We will be living near Falmouth on my return, he goes down next week, (with no job). However, still on the transfer list at work and I am sure he will not find it difficult to get something with all of his experience. We have a car as well, a mini, what a hero. The only drawback I have now in going home is the family. Seems they were not impressed with my not contacting them on my brief stopover. Well I am ready for anything they throw at me and I don’t care if they hate me for it. I have a new niece, Hannah, apparently she is a cutie. Oh happy day, just have to pig out tonight and drown my sorrows.

By chance a couple had checked in and I was invited to join them at their table. They certainly know how to pack the drink away, must have some dosh too. Whilst they drank we had interesting conversations about each other, India, etc, and I plodded through a huge 4 course meal, which took about 4 hours. Wasn’t hungry really once I got the food, however it was my birthday so I persevered. Ended up quite enjoying my day in the end, the manager’s wife was introduced (as a treat) but no cake came by. I was given a candle to blow out though.

Spent over £14 in all today, not one to be repeated, I think.

25 October – Up bright and early and on time to take my tablet, feel better about my wounds now despite the weeping. Felt slightly dicky first thing so had a small breakfast before our day out.

The taxi journey seemed to take ages but it was a pleasant drive into the countryside. At one point we passed a lake that had some special rooted plant covering it. Small canoe type boats were paddled out in order to pick the harvest, an interesting interlude. Our tour came in two parts (three if we had wanted to see a temple on route). First was a wander alongside the Narmada River to a 20 foot drop waterfall, which had a mediocre splendour to it. The water came over at quite a speed and I have to say that the setting is much nicer than Niagara Falls. The falls themselves are no match. As well as tourists peering down into the river, people bathed and washed clothes. I don’t imagine this to be a major tourist attraction so there were minimal vendors etc. Tried some sugar cane juice, which was lovely. Next was down to the rocks themselves where we hired an excuse of a boat, it looked as though it would sink any minute. The privilege cost us 75 rupees for 30 minutes. Whilst the boy baled water out with a small pot, J rowed the boat. Three other colleagues watched on and I sat back and hoped. The actual rocks were not that special, ok, but nothing to write home about. However, the boat ride was very pleasant, the water was calm and the air peaceful. In fact, the area had an eerie feel to it. For a few minutes the boat was moored on a rock-side and samples taken as momentous. A running commentary was provided, in Hindu, but somehow we got round the problem. Certain rocks have been given names to correspond with supposed likenesses to them. ‘The Crocodiles’, ‘Tigers Head’, to name a couple. Wouldn’t go all out to recommend this as a must excursion but at least I have seen it, done it. Think I would have spent more time there on my own. My companions were not interested in hanging around to soak up the atmosphere, had to be back by 1pm. Safely returned in our flagging craft we came swiftly back to Jabalpur. J&S had some considerable hassle over a travellers cheque but, after a few threats (of a subtle kind) the matter was settled in their favour.

The drugs have made me a little drowsy, thankfully I still have use of the room so could rest. Unfortunately I think I may have missed saying goodbye to my friends. I wanted their address. Stroke of luck, they are still here. Hate hanging around for departures, hoped to spend the whole day at the rocks. Can sleep I guess to while away the times. Have been given a book to read, but not in the mood for it yet.

My highlight of the day has been almost forgotten. I was walking up the road to get some bananas when a lad on a motorcycle drew up alongside. He came out with the following, ‘Excuse me, do you want sex?’ I really didn’t know how to react so simply told him where to go. He rode off without saying another word. Should have smacked him in the face.

Lazed until dinner, after which I got myself together to leave. The manager was on the phone, too bad. Walked all the way, hardly any rickshaws around the area. My train is apparently 10 hours late, would you believe, such luck. However, the 9.20pm train is also running two hours late so can hopefully take that. I knew things had to be running too smoothly on the transport front. If all else fails I will just sleep here at the station, in the waiting room if necessary.

Got shoved in a compartment with no seats, I was left sitting on my rucksack next to the toilet, which was very smelly. Spent over an hour there and still no seat materialised. Eventually some guy did come along and offered half of his berth to me. After trying out various contortionate sleeping attempts, ended up having a comfortable couple of hours sleep.

26 October – Chatted and dosed the first few hours of the morning, which helped. Got to Varanasi around 11am, first thing was to make my reservation to Delhi, at least it would be out of the way.

Had I known just what a chore it would be getting to my hotel I would never have insisted on my rickshaw driver taking me there. The ride was horrendous over bumpy, dusty streets and the remainder of the trip was on foot. We parked up and I had visions of me being pointed in a direction and left. However, the nice man showed me the way and glad I was too. The streets were so very narrow, but well paved, they made up the old city. We walked for miles it seemed, I don’t think he really knew the way. Finally saw blue sky again as we emerged from the alleys to the Ganges.

The hotel is literally on the water’s edge and completely secluded from everything. Not sure if this is a good idea or not. The rooms etc are clean, they do food and the view is brilliant, so will stay. Can’t be bothered to trek back again, although there is a short route back out which I am sure my driver knew about. Fit to drop this afternoon. There are others here which I am glad about, one poor guy has gastroenteritis. Just sat and watched it all go by, another couple came by so chatted with them. Was interesting watching the men and women down by the ghat, all water by a ghat is holy. It is dirty, full of crap, cows swim in it, washing clothes goes on, people bathe in it, not at all a hygienic place, yet you find them cleaning teeth and even drinking it without a second thought. I wonder at our own complicated sterile existence.

Really tired by 4.30 so went to rest. My ankle looks like a football. Am hoping to catch everyone before they go out tonight, I don’t fancy walking into town on my own here, too creepy down the alleys. Dinner came just after 8pm.

We wandered the cow-shitted and even dying cow streets to the Ganga Fuji restaurant. Was worth the wait, the food was fabulous. A lot of Japanese dishes on offer, so popular for that nationality. One of the crowd, Carlos, is a bit odd. He handed around some sort of ‘grass’ at the end of the meal, I declined.

So knacked out I forgot to wake for my midnight tablet. Hope I get up for 7am tomorrow.

27 October – Desperately tried to wake early this morning, my eyes were so heavy. Sprang into action at 6.40am, 20 minutes to get ready. Managed it but will have to go out with wet hair. Haggling for a boat was the first problem, the expected guy was waiting but no price predetermined.

If you ignored the state of the water it was really quite romantic being rowed along. The first part of the cruise was not so interesting, the second brought many things. There are varying degrees of ghat on the water’s edge and each seems to have its fair share of people doing their thing. I have mentioned before about the state of the water. Today we saw decomposing carcasses floating, with maggots, and worst of all a dead body. I get the impression that those who die broke (I think they are dead), simply get tethered and thrown into the river, and still a few feet away people continued the early morning rituals, unbelievable. Breakfast did not appeal for a while. The boatman would insist on hugging the shoreline, so on the way back we encouraged him to go wide. Breakfast went down well in the end.

Glad I did shower before I left, there was a flood later on. Farted around for a while and then headed out to the shops.

The main route out contained megga amounts of shops, the streets are only around an arm’s stretch wide, with barely any light, so you can imagine how much of a hotch potch it all was, quite fun really. I was in an impulse buy mood, the first clothes shop who beckoned me over I entered. The show floor was cushioned so I had to remove my shoes and plonk myself down. To say I saw the whole of the shop was an understatement. However I was in the mood to spend some money so did not worry , and the prices were reasonable without haggling. Came away with 7 things in all, two silk/cotton tops, one lungi, one pair of trousers for me and three shirts for Kevin. Could have got the whole store, so many nice things. Will have to hunt in Delhi. Also got some bracelets for the girls so hope they fit. That done, I searched for things for the rest, the boys will be the problem. Got into the main street and wandered down to a ghat, really nice, mellow atmosphere. The problems getting back were incredible, I found the right entrance but could I get on the right track. Ended up in circles, sure I must have passed Ganga Fuji without realising it. Had my main meal this afternoon, don’t fancy the traipse out tonight. Had the same dish as yesterday but it tasted different. The time went quickly after that, what with trying on and things.

So nice to sit up on the roof and watch it all happen. Had a snack tonight and soaked up the night air upstairs, listening to the sounds. Need an early night. Varanasi is so different to everywhere else, it has all the essence of what you expect in India, plus romance. It is wonderfully disgusting.

28 October – Achieved very little today. Was up fairly early and rearing to go. Wanted to find a bank first, which posed more problems than it need have. Wandered miles up the road and every bank I went to did not change cheques, so decided to go back down towards the Dasaswamedth ghat. On the way back a bunch of westerners asked my assistance in finding Yogi Lodge, I was headed in the right direction so did not mind, felt sorry for them carrying their gear in the heat. One poor girl managed to hitch herself onto a cycle rickshaw and got dragged along behind. So many shop workers (not sure of the right word) lurking around, wanting your business or money exchange. Ended up having to backtrack to find a bank, only a little further than I had originally gone, so annoying. Did look at some drums earlier on, think I would like them, they would be good for all the lads, however, too expensive for one gift. Really nice quality; sure something will turn up. The main street has to be one of the busiest I have seen so far. It is not so wide and you can’t move for cycle rickshaws, they do more business than the autos. There are hoards of people, cows, dust, a major headache. By now the morning was complete and I desperately needed refreshment. Happened upon a Pizza Hut, not a franchise I hasten to add. Had quite an extensive menu so may write to Lonely Planet on their behalf. Was not bothered by now about going out to the fort so made my way back to the guest house.

Just to say I had done something today I went to view the Golden Temple. Not allowed inside unless a Hindu, so got taken up to a silk shop to view it from the window. Good of them not to charge for the privilege. How they managed to build something so spectacular and have it hidden in the maze of streets beats me. The roof is gold plated, quoted as ¾ of a ton in weight. Could do with a polish, very nice though. Had to stand back from the window a bit to take a photo, just in case the soldiers took offence. The streets, especially the old city, are full of soldiers posted to deter any disturbance between Hindus and Muslims. Is a little unnerving, they all have guns. The guy who escorted me wanted to take me to another temple but could not be fagged.

Did nothing all afternoon, emerged to the roof in the cool of the early evening. Can see myself spending my last few days in and out of shops and doing little else. Varanasi is a nice place to end my sight-seeing, along the mighty Ganges. Peaceful, romantic splendour.

29 October – Happy 34th anniversary to Ma and Pa Kettle.

Did the very leisurely start, missed the sunrise again, tomorrow definitely. Spent a lot of the morning up on the roof reading, the place seems to be deserted.

Just after noon I ventured to find a rickshaw to take me to the Ramnagar, haggled a little but still ended up paying OTT. Was not sure for definite that I was being taken to the right place but did eventually arrive at the water’s edge. Caught a cheap rickety old boat over, piled high with people, cycles and motor bikes. The centre motor resembled something short of a steam engine, but it got us across. The faces of all the older people are so intense, so weathered and sad. The other side was sand, sand and more sand, however it emerges into a smaller town. Looks so much quieter than the main city.

The Ramnagar Fort is a shabby looking place up close, but I believe a Maharaja still lives in part. The museum is arranged around a pleasant courtyard, designed so as to make it easy to see. The exhibits are not so interesting – few carriages, armoury, brocaded garments, pictures and ornaments. Did notice how a lot of the armoury was ornately carved. Passed a good ¾ hour looking around, what I desperately needed as a drink. The best part was a temple that stands looking out over the water, a beautiful setting. I took lots of piccies of the boats and stuff, more interested in people pictures though. A nice lad in the temple took my picture for me, so I took his.

The ferry back was much better. I stood neath the canopy with the wind fanning my skirt, eating coconut. The journey back was quicker but still as bumpy.

I headed straight for the Ganga Fuji, gasping for a drink, it was around 3.45 so a pretty good time to eat.

The evening went quickly, I spent my usual time up on the roof soaking up the atmosphere. New people here again with different stories to tell, of a similar nature. Tomorrow is really my last day.

Current day thoughts

I can’t remember exactly how much it cost me to see the doctor, but it was minimal. £6.00 comes to mind including the medicines I was prescribed. The doctor spoke very good English so I had no problems with translation, he was very quick and efficient too. Glad though to not have anything too serious found. I took my blood results away with me and the white cell count indicated some sort of infection. The receptacle I was given to pee in was a large grubby looking glass jug. The pharmacist was a different matter when it came to communication, so he did diagrams on the packages of pills and potions so I would understand how much to take and when. When my hotelier discovered which doctor the taxi driver had taken me to, he was furious and had a go at him, which was unnecessary as I was completely happy with the choice. He called him a ‘bloody fool’, the only part of his rant that was in English, which he knew I would understand. Silly man. What a nice way to spend one’s birthday.

My companions out to the marble rocks on the water paid for everything all day long, but I totalled up as I went along and paid them my cut when we got back to the hotel, which one of them was very grateful for as I don’t think she was happy about paying for me, and why should she be.
The trouble in travelling with other people or going on a tour is you are restricted in regards to movement, which is why I like to travel alone.

The doctor had told me I should not cover the wound on my leg but to let the air get to it, hence I walked out on an occasion with a shorter skirt on, exposing my legs, which is when the rude young man drew up beside me and asked his inappropriate question. Don’t know why I didn’t think about letting the air get to my wound, it might have cleared up sooner.

Sharing the seat on the train to Varanasi was an interesting one and thankfully the gentleman was a gentleman and didn’t try any funny business. I think we slept head to toe and it might have been this journey where I actually slept on my rucksack on the floor, but I can’t be sure.

The rickshaw drivers try to persuade people to stay in hotels in the new part of Varanasi as they are easy to get to, however I am so glad to have insisted on the hotel of my choice, which was, despite the hassle of getting to it, well located. I was right by the most important river in India and I got to experience what I would regard as the real India, in the old part of town. Thank you too to the rickshaw man who took the trouble to guide me all the way to the hotel.

What goes on in all of the rivers is a real eye opener, you can see from my observations that the Ganges was open to all for whatever purpose. The Ganges is reported to be the most polluted river in the world and I will quote from Wikipedia what they say about it around Varanasi, ‘The levels of faecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the river near Varanasi are more than a hundred times the Indian government’s official limit.’ However, the sacred river blesses all who let it flow over them.

My first evening I saw a cow that was lying in the street dying, just being left alone to get on with it. The cow did eventually die after a couple of days but again was just left there, someone did put a cover over it, and then one day I walked past the spot and it was gone.

I can’t believe the amount of people who took up the offer of the ‘grass’, (I am so innocent when it comes to narcotics), after our meal, it can’t have been just me who saw the danger in it. Perhaps I am even more naïve than I thought. In any case, I was already on prescription drugs and they were taking their toll on me. The restaurant was cool though, very small, but complete with an in-house band playing.

What a treat our punt out onto the river was, and so early in the morning. There were several of us in the boat and I remember the guy sat in front of me was the one with gastroenteritis. I remember him sinking lower and lower as our journey progressed but thankfully he survived the trip. The boat was quite low, so you could touch the water if brave enough. There was so much activity going on along the shore, including women doing the washing and hanging it out to dry on the steps leading down to the river. The part of a human body was the highlight, probably not for the poorly guy, my eyes just fixed, mesmerised, as it floated past us. It was a leg attached to a buttock, left or right I can’t remember. I still see it now. Such a sad thing for the people who don’t get the same funeral rights as most, however, they do get to rest in the holy water. We did get to see a funeral pyre in action along the route, just by chance and not as a tourist attraction. Overall the experience was very enlightening and just an array of colour, I am so glad I got to do it.

Isn’t it funny, when you buy a item of clothing when you are abroad and it looks really great and fitting, but once you get home it just doesn’t look the same.

Apart from bits of my hotel in Varanasi still being built, it was great to be able to sit up on the roof, especially at night, looking across the Ganges, sometimes watching the sun go down. You didn’t need entertainment because everything around you provided it, so beautiful and rewarding, just sitting and watching and listening.

It was a privilege to be asked advice from fellow strangers, like I knew where everything was and with my map reading skills too.

I did take some treacherous trips across the river at times but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The boat across to Ramnagar was so archaic but the trip was exhilarating; I think I was the only the only westerner on that particular trip across. I felt like a true adventurer.

I will post lots of picture from India very soon, so you can get to view some of the amazing things I experienced.

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Week 41 – 30 October to 4 November
30 October – Managed to make it this morning for the sunrise. Was lovely and cool at 5.30am and still the ghats were a buzz. I watched the horizon turn from a blaze of orange and mauves to the softness of yellow. The quarter moon was still in the sky. From the depths of the Ganges an intense orange sphere appeared, how quickly the earth revolves, somebody somewhere is now enjoying the cool of the evening.
As the early risers boarded their boats, I retired for a couple more hours rest. I have until noon to check out, shall not wander out today. Couldn’t face breakfast on the roof so ate inside. Checked out by noon. Read my book for a couple of hours and then went out for a wander, so hot today. Found the Pizza Hut and had lunch, accompanied with gale force winds from the fan.
Came back to the hotel for another hour and a half and sat on the roof staring out across the river. The heat of the day was gone now and a pleasant evening approaching. Boats were drifting, birds flying furiously above, the monkeys busying about. I couldn’t have wished for a better place to be. It is dawning on me that it will all be just a memory soon and I have to bring this to some kind of conclusion, food for thought.
Followed a herd of bullocks out into the main street, tiptoeing through the cow shit. The atmosphere tonight was wonderful, I actually found myself smiling as I sailed along on the rickshaw. The streets were so crowded, it just reeked of India. My driver tonight thought he was onto a winner but I disappointed him. I knew he wouldn’t have change of a 50 rupee so gave what I had in small notes, it was enough I think. Still have to face the bastards in Delhi, I won’t take any crap this time. Varanasi is just that ‘very nicey’.
I was asked tonight if I was looking forward to going home as I must miss my family. I stumbled over how to answer, I don’t know that I do miss them. A classic case of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone’, so easy to take for granted that they are all around somewhere if needed.
31 October – A mix of a day, definitely Delhi though. Got here just after 10am and had a rickshaw free escape to the street. Did a silly thing and went to a hotel booking office instead of insisting I went straight to my chosen hotel. Ended up a little out from where I wanted, in fact a lot out. The Hotel Pash, I am the only one here it seems, it’s not in the book, tomorrow I will check some others. Have been very surprised at the cheapness of the transport so far, much different to when I first came here.
Stopped off in a shop to look at some chess sets, thought they would be a good idea for the boys. The asking price was too much, however, he held my attention by reading my palm, a hobby he said. What he was telling me was pretty accurate, although it did get a little personal at times. In the end the whole thing was covered in sexual overtones until he was handing himself to me on a plate. I was out of there as quick as lightening. I had a ring on from the shop which I quickly dispersed into the gutter. What an asshole, pervert more like.
Found my coordination was better this time around and I found the Wimpy without hassle, for lunch. Found Lufthansa too and confirmed my reservation, may have to go back as there is a bit of confusion over my airport tax. However, a Thomas Cook is in operation further down the road so will check with them first.
Changed a traveller’s cheque and hit the emporium. Got some small chess sets and made the mistake of checking the prices of others afterwards. Could have saved myself 200 rupees. So many nice things here, I have never looked before. Came back with gifts and provisions, walked most of the way but got lost and rickshawed the rest. Think my room is used as an illicit den for sex, judging by the stains and articles about the place. The haunt of my life, sometimes I feel as though I have no shame. Ironic when you consider the book I am reading at the moment.
1 November – Was out by 8am searching for alternative accommodation. The Metropolis Tourist Home had dorms for 100 rupees, really nice too so snapped up one of the beds quickly. Dashed back to the Pash and packed as soon as I could. The guy there offered me the room cheaper but I explained that it was company I was looking for. They had a restaurant too, expensive, but was nice for breakfast, the best porridge so far.
Started covering familiar ground in the centre of town. On the way to Thomas Cook I found the EATS office and booked my place on the midnight train (bus really), another worry out of the way. Thomas Cook explained that the tax I had paid was the German airport tax, so looks like I still have to pay Indian tax.
Back to good old shopping again. Found the State Emporium section this time. A whole street of shops selling items from each state in India. A craft fair was also on, part of the Diwali festival. Hit the Wimpy again, only for a snack and then started the walk back to the bazar. I look for the ultimate bargains and always come back with nothing, bit like Christmas shopping. Got a bit more done though, just Amy to do and more for the two of us. The small streets are quite alive today, guess this is more like Old Delhi.
Absolutely knacked when I got back so slept for a while. Feel like I should be sightseeing, all seems too much hassle at the moment. May be if I get up late tomorrow the day will seem shorter. Had dinner here, will eat out tomorrow, too expensive. Think I have a dislike for soy sauce now. The streets outside are so noisy tonight, but it captures the spirit of India perfectly. The festival is now, so fireworks are exploding everywhere, decorations sparkle, bodies busy about and the holy cow ambles along taking it all in its stride. You gotta love this place.
2 November – A similar day to yesterday, except a later start. Breakfasted cheaper today and had 3 times as much.
For a change I thought I would head into Old Delhi to check out its main shopping bazar. It was a long way to walk and a long way from being the atmosphere of New -Delhi. A lot less polished and not another westerner to be seen. The roads were extremely congested and at one point nobody was moving anywhere. I reached what I imagined to be my destination or near as damn it. People everywhere, no organisation, I couldn’t bear it, so turned back, I would stick to the familiar territory. Will have to change another cheque tomorrow. Wandered the emporiums, the Plaza Bazar, buying some, getting ideas, I hate shopping. I have no choice but to get it done tomorrow, will give me something to do at least.
One weird thing happened whilst in the emporium. A girl grabbed my arm as I passed by. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ she said. I did seem to recognise something familiar about her, but couldn’t place the occasion. She thought San Francisco, no I wasn’t there, San Diego, no, Flagstaff, yes that was it, I still couldn’t remember. Quite ironic when you think about it. She goes home tonight, me tomorrow.
Came back exhausted, but with mended shoes, he done a good job too. Ate a good meal and came back to the hotel, but decided to go out again.
Read this morning about the 3 Brits and 1 Yank who were held hostage in Kashmir for a while. Boy it’s all happening whilst I am out here, feel a bit of a hero for surviving it all.
Whilst out I was approached by a man collecting information from westerners, of their opinions on India, so agreed to fill in his form. He was quite keen for me to elaborate on one or two points. I think the main thing I was trying to get over to him was, that the men over here should learn to have more respect for western women, the same as they do for Indian. Just because we consent to sex before marriage doesn’t mean that we throw ourselves at every pair of trousers. There are certain ceremonies, etiquette if you like, which either do or do not lead to a physical relationship, and I think if the Indian men were aware of this, they might understand us better. Courtship doesn’t happen here; it is the unknown. The first time the majority of men get close to a woman is once they are married and one of the first things you do once you are wed is to consummate the marriage. That is as far as their understanding of getting to know you goes. The whole of their young years is spent waiting for the day when they can release that pent-up energy. I wonder how it is for women. And so I think that is how they see our behaviour, boy meets girl and they go off for a bit of how’s your father. I also told him about the freedom I have and he seemed to feel that Indian women feel more secure form their lack of it. They know their role in life and so are content with it. I call it brainwashing. There are a lot of angry women out there waiting to burst, a revolution is just around the corner. Made a bit more of an interesting evening anyway. I have to laugh when I defend a woman’s conduct, considering my lack of morals throughout life. I cannot change my past but I can protect my future if I choose.
3 November – Today was a mad spending spree. I didn’t move out until noon, only another twelve hours to kill. It is crazy on the streets today, happy Diwali. Fire-crackers and bangers being let off all over the place, I am sure I will be deaf by the time I leave tonight.
Manged to change some money before trudging the stores again. I had already been delayed with exotic scents and so felt fresh and relaxed. This was the last chance so had to select something for the masses. For the girls I chose silk and scent, I can see Andy busy making up blouses for everyone before Christmas. Come to think of it I may leave handing the pressies out until then, except for the kiddies. I haggled down on prices but got little response, the drums were the best value, the boys have done well. The clan decided, I then had to find one more thing for Kevin and me. I fancied the elephants, but if I have elephants what shall I get Kevin? The end of the day was drawing, still the fireworks blew and the shops would close early. I was back by the hotel so could not go back down Connaught. I was in the mood to splash out no matter the cost. Finally came across a soap stone chess set that would do. Just think I have to go back over this at Christmas.
Pigged out for dinner, felt a bit sick after. Was invited back up to the roof, the men’s dorm was partying, brilliant view of all the celebrations. One other girl was there. We all had quite a laugh, could have gone down the graveyard, not my idea of fun. Baskets blew, the sky sparkled and the noise was tremendous. Barely a roof top was silent. The most erratic of firework displays I have ever seen. Bonfire night will seem so dull. I was talking to the only other passenger on the airport bus and he didn’t like the atmosphere at all, too loud he said. It is the most fun I have witnessed in a long time. My journey started with a bang on Australia Day and it has ended with a bang on Diwali. Pin points to mark this special momentum of my life.
4 November – And so to my final flight, the end of this particular journey. I must bring it to a close.
Current day thoughts
I will always look upon Varanasi as the last place I spent in India and treasure the beautiful ambiance it radiated; the peace, the noise, the colours, the culture, the sunrise, the sunsets the Ganges, everything that captures the essence of India, memories I shall have with me forever. I was happy. I don’t remember the train journey out of Varanasi, my heart will always be there.
Not sure I could make up my mind what to do for the last day in Varanasi, one minute I was not going out for a wander, the next I was out there wandering, I was clearly restless.
It always felt like the bullocks were sent to guide me out of the old town. I had pretty much worked out the right route by then though, having done it a few times, but it still felt special. Having said that I just followed them not thinking about where I was headed.
Isn’t it always the way that you feel as though you have the measure of a place just as you are about to leave it?
Delhi was pretty much a time of tying up the ends and sorting myself out to come back to the UK. Shopping for souvenirs pretty much sums it up. Not going to elaborate on the sleazeball in the chess shop, it speaks for itself.
The move to the dormitory accommodation was a good move as it gave me access to more of what was going on, what with it being Diwali.
I have no idea what EATS stands for, and I can find no reference to it now, but it appears to have been a booking office for getting out to the airport.
I am not sure what the problem was with soy sauce at the time but I do try to avoid it where possible nowadays owing to a health condition that can be aggravated by it.
I can’t remember the book I was reading at the time; however it was clearly very poignant.
In India there are a lot of people who set up shop on the street and the shoe repair man was one of them. I can still remember sitting on his chair out in the open whilst he mended my sandals and all the people staring as they went by. They were sandals I had originally bought in Delhi so easy for him to do.
I may be wrong about the courtship thing in India, that’s just how I see it. I hope that by now things have mellowed a bit. May be that’s where I went wrong. I have always longed for respect as a person and not for what people think they can get from me.
It really is a small world out there. Bumping into the lady who recognised me in the emporium proves it. I didn’t remember her at all, I met so many people during my travels it would be impossible to remember everyone. It also goes to show just how many people are out there travelling on their own. She must have had the same idea as me in making India her last stop.
The Diwali festival was in full swing. I remember young lads running around letting off fire crackers in the street around people’s feet and market stalls selling a fudge like sweet, I think it is Barfi/burfi, but is even sweeter than fudge over here and very sickly if you eat too much. Not a clue what the baskets were that blew but the atmosphere was brilliant, if a little dangerous up on the roof of the hotel. Fireworks were being let off from every rooftop and firing in every direction. Health and Safety out of the window. I was glad to have experienced this festival and to have left India on a happy note.
I don’t miss people when I am away from them. I concentrate on why I am where I am and just get on with it. I look upon it as a strength in being able to cope by myself, pining for others achieves nothing, it says, I am nothing without you by my side, to justify my life, to give me identity. Obviously, you emanate from a mixed gene pool and that shapes the person you are, but to define the person you are I believe you have to break away and explore yourself more and challenge yourself and be true to yourself. People come and people go and if they die you miss knowing that they are not there anymore, but you have to thank them for giving you the strength to be able to survive as an individual, for teaching you those things, especially family. In essence you will be the same person when you return but a stronger version, which some people will like and some will not. Those that don’t like are jealous of the person you have become; it merely highlights how insecure they are in themselves. Don’t be afraid of who you are, don’t let others put you down or keep you down and don’t let others dig at the insecurities that held you back in the first place. It is ok to be you.
So, how to I sum up this incredible 10 months of travel, it is impossible to do it justice. It has been a privilege to share with you and bring it alive again, so thank you.
I certainly came back a different person, a stronger more confident person. Am I a better person? I am not sure about that, the experience brought out the best and the worst in me and has left me capable of giving as good as I get, which I would never have done in the past. I can be kind when kindest presents itself and I can be equally nasty when nasty shows its face. I like to think I am a shrewder person and insightful and knowing, but I guess these things come to us all eventually, if a little too late sometimes. I am not materialistic any more as I learned to live with so little. I also look at situations from every perspective, consider all sides, and that allows me to reason with whatever disruptions come my way; it makes for a quieter life mentally.
I have never eaten so many bananas in my life as I did in India, they are now part of my daily diet.
I am not really sure what the motivation was to go travelling in the first place, the idea was planted and it just took over, but I am glad I did do it and more importantly by myself. I will never know what the experience would have been like with my partner alongside and I am not going to guess. I believe going it alone exposed the outer person I was and made me dig deep inside to bring the real me out and I think I achieved that. I was running away from my past looking forward to a new future that would emerge. I realise now that the past never leaves you no matter how far you run, however you can change the way you think about it.
Would I do it again, yes; in fact I did do it again 8 years later in 2002, which I will bore you all with sometime soon, so something to look forward to.
You should always look forward, always have something to strive towards, to live for.
Around the time I was away there were a lot of western travellers being kidnapped in the region of Kashmir, north of India; some sadly never made it back and I would like to dedicate this final week to those people who I regard with kindred spirit and have passed on to the next life and greater adventures.

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