Online on the road in India

I finally got Internet access via Airtel GPRS Mobile Office so maybe I’ll fill in some of the gaps where we’ve been. I want to get a little google map happening showing where we’ve been but the WordPress travelog plugin isn’t doing it for me and the guy that wrote travelog is currently travelling round India himself and not doing any work on it for a while.

Airtel Mobile Office is pretty cheap and convenient once you get it sorted. Unfortunately, not many Airtel staff seem to know much about it. I got passed round on the phone and went to three Airtel shops before I finally got it sorted. You need an Airtel SIM with some credit and a GPRS recharge card (250 rupees per month). There’s no data charges so you’re looking at a month of all you can eat internet for 600 rupees all up. I had to enter extra modem initialisation commands too. Best bet is ringing the AirTel helpline and asking for a technical support person with knowledge of Mobile Office to ring you back.

We’re in Ooty, aka Udagamandalam or Ootacamund, up at 2250m in the Nilgiri hills. We’ve splashed out on a hotel overlooking the lake with a great veg restaurant and a porter who is happy to catch the bus in to town to fetch us beer so we’re quite happy not moving too far at the moment.

Ooty was established as a retreat for the colonial Brits. I found it quite strange to come across a town of this size way up in the Niligiri hills, very Shangri-la. Apparently Ooty used to look like a cross between an English village and an Australian country town but a lot of that has been lost with all the concrete blocks that have sprung up. Vegetables grow well up here and the bazaar is full of goodies. I’m not too keen on hanging round the chicken stalls though. I saw a crazy article in the newspaper yesterday about some guy drinking chicken’s blood for some festival. The picture showed him with the chicken’s neck in his mouth, feathers and all. I hope he didn’t actually kill it by biting it cos that would be really wrong. Bird flu should do well with those guys.

Trichy

We’re in Trichy and just had the best temple day ever. Went to the Rock Fort temple and climbed up for the view and Ganesh’s blessing, as you do, then went to Sri Jambukeshwara in time for Shanti the elephant’s little walk round with the drums and bells. I got Shanti’s blessing while I was at it by sticking a rupee coin on the tip of her trunk. She’s lovely. I saw Shiva’s underwater lingum too!

I thought I was a bit over-templed and was even showing signs of irritable Indian-traveller syndrome yesterday. I hadn’t told any beggars to piss off but I had bowled a few begging kids aside with my backpack at the bus station and apparently I was aggressive and confrontational when bargaining with a autorickshaw driver in Bangalore. I’d even gone off my thalis and dosas a bit. Now I’m all chirpy again.

We’re off to Madurai on a local bus now. Only 3 hours, hope the cricket is still going when we get there. There’s some bar like a spaceship in one of the hotels or something.

Bangalore

I’m in Bangalore with free wifi at a Coffee World cafe in some plaza on the corner of Brigade Rd and Residency Rd. I don’t think the cafe has anything to do with the free wifi but they’re letting me plug in and sit here for ages with just a measly coffee shake. Wish they didn’t put sweet stuff in the cold coffee pah.
I was curious what Bangalore would be like, expecting something similar to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore with skyscrapers and cool modern architecture and no stray dogs and cows wandering the streets. Bangalore is definitely an Indian city though, I haven’t seen any cool skyscrapers and I just saw a cow in the middle of traffic on MG Rd. I think maybe Bangalore’s IT industry is housed in little compounds around the city outskirts.

We’re off to Pondicherry tonight for a taste of France.