Sam Guinness Diaries of Sri Lanka and India January to March 2017

4th of January

Flew to Columbo airport via Dubai. The flight was exciting. Watched Baby Driver, a film directed by the guy who did Hot Fuzz. Dubai looked like a golf course of a city. Olive made me spring through the airport like Hugh Grant running to a terminal to tell a girl he loved her. We made the flight in good time and made our way to Sri Lanka.

5th of January

On arrival to Colombo we opted to make a two and a half hour Taxi to Kandy with the colour and excitement that no guide book or Instagram post can ever capture. The road snaked through the jungle of Sri Lanka on an almost deserted main road occasionally passing Tata steel busses and tuk tuks. Our taxi driver stopped intermittently to gob mouthfuls of blood and purchase an edible leaf tied in newspaper.1 After a quick turn around at our hostel we headed on to the centre of Kandy to taste our first flavour of Sri Lankan food. The Muslim Hotel was dimly lit with oak panelled floors. There was no AC, and the temperature was preserved through overhead fans and heavy curtains blocking passages of sun light. We ordered a vegetable curry, 2 lime sodas and 2 roti’s. The curry was a Thali type dish, with a bowl of dal, mango chutney, curried okra and curried green beans although spicey, the curries fizz was worryingly addictive prompting us to return for lunch the next day. With a fizz in our mouth we gorged ourselves with the smells and sounds of the city. A continual stream of tuk tuks wafted the previously eastern smell of petrol that I immediately associated with Marrakesh and Delhi. We mindlessly walked into one of Buddhisms most mindful places – the temple of the sacred tooth. The centrepiece of this temple was Buddha’s tooth encased in a heavy golden Crown. Lotus flowers made and sold on the outskirts of the temple were donated to the temple as a symbol of respect. Notable experiences included a stuffed elephant, whose death in 1997 merited a day of national mourning. In the evening we climbed the hills of Kandy to a hotel called Helga’s anti-hostel. The hotel was a bohemian place in the shadows of the Jungle. Amongst notable guests included Gandhi, Lawrence Olivier and Nehru. We had a glass of Arrack, a Sri Lankan drink that tasted like Whisky an attempted to piece together the puzzle of the ‘anti-hostel’. While Olive felt strange, being my mothers son I felt immediately comfortable drinking in a junk shop.

After our drink we descended to a café called the Gordon restaurant. Hunched over a plate of cheese sandwiches and chips sat a lady named Susan. Susan launched herself into conversation with the ferocity of a NASA space launch. She rocketed through subjects of Brexit, why Goa’s gone to shit and how she launched EuroMillions. It became apparent that she was a retired millionaire in her late thirties/early forties. Having immediately labelled her rude my discursive brain warmed to her after she mentioned she had launched: 3 mobile, ITV and EuroMillions – a living example of Deleuze; idea of corporate power.

6th of January

In the morning we took a tuk tuk to the Botanical Gardens. We sifted through dinasour sized Bamboos and Palm Trees making our way to bat country. Thousands of bats hung from treee’s like strange fruits. Armed only with a camera I attempted to capture the area of the gardens that had been colonized by the bats… after spending hours walking through the most extraordinary garden I’d ever seen we returned to Pushkin Hotel with a barrel of photos looted from Sri Lanka’s most beautiful garden. Olive and I had been so cultural we were almost beginning to understand the rhythm of Sri Lanka’s second city, however, we are travellers and there are certain things travellers do. At four, whilst the Buddhist monks made their way to meditate decorated in neon orange robes, we ascended to our own temple – the British ex pat pub – were we rejoiced over happy hour sharing stories with travellers from Leeds, Peterborough and Ibiza over Sri Lankan beer and Chinese food.

7th of January

We got to Kandy central station for 7 am to join all the cities backpackers queuing for tickets to Ella. Travellers lined the platform dressed in their most bohemian clothes. A man in a head band and hareem pants strolled up the and down the station like Kate Moss on a cat walk. On the trains arrival I planted a firm left

1 This is an Asian delicacy known as Betel Nut that people chew and spit. It looks just like blood and thankfully isn’t.

foot on the entrance to the train allowing my backpack to swing in the face of an equally eager traveller. Having eliminated my opponent I gained a seat on what is described (and witnessed) as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. An hour later an old Sri Lankan man got off. Allowing Olive and another passenger to squeeze into a three. With my head lodged outside the window, I was bulleted through the Hill country of Kandy with little more than half a meter wall separating me from the valley.

Despite being in the centre of the Ella mountains the town had been colonised by travellers, Bob Marley flags and badly spelt English menus; these were immediate signs of the travellers deviance, nevertheless, the selection of Ella was beautiful and our hotel had a good view over the town.

8th of January

In the morning we set off towards Ella Rock, supposedly the finest walk in the town. The route had us along railway tracks and through tea plantations – having got lost the owner of a tree plantation put us back on route (suspicious circumstances). A commotion of European whites soundtracked the top of the rock. We spent the afternoon relaxing. I listened to Sam Harris’ Waking Up in which he argues that the self doesn’t exist using techniques such as meditation to demonstrate why. He continually deploys the word ‘transcendence’ to explain the effect of transcending the self. When people like Hitchens argue that people should be skeptical of anything claiming to be transcendent there is a clear misconception that transcendence is a thing towards a metaphysical feature, in fact, Harris uses the term ‘transcend’ to transcend our conceptions of the self, arguing, with the support of Buddhist teachings, that no self exists because all we are is mind. Amongst notable examples he describes the phenomena of the split brain, in which our left and right brains experience totally different things. Our left Brain Is said to deal with functions like temporal order and language while our right brain has tasks like voice recognition. While I now understand the ideas of self transcendence it is somewhat important to interpret the book not totally accept that we simply do not have enough information on consciousness.

9th of January

Flowers Amongst the Tea Plants

Walked towards little Adams peak but missed the turning and visited Newburgh tea factory. Had the best cup of green tea I have tasted. Afterwards we walked towards little Adams peak. A woman posed in the shadow of the Buddha statue while her Dad took photos. For lunch we went to the best restaurant yet – a joint called Martys away from the main strip. We ordered fried Okra for starters, veg curry and Roti for main accompanied with two coconut waters, served in coconuts. After our meal a psytrance couple who we’d chatted to before asked us to go for a drink at the One Love bar, like sly teenagers at a disco we mouthed a muffled excuse. Having visited a bridge we returned back to One Love hoping they’d still be there. We spent the rest of the evening drinking Lion Beers and chatting to Pascal and Rose. Pascal by trade dealt illicit materials from Zurich. His appearance was striking, wearing a sleeveless vest, wrapped around with a large leather belt with an Ohm pocket. His energy was electric telling me about his struggles with drink and drugs as well as bantering me on Chelseas chances against Barcelona in February. Rose was a Greenwich girl born and bred who had found Pascal and Psytrance and since then directed the artistic energies that had been cultivated at Brighton polytech towards making psytrance and selling them on instagram. She was in Brighton the same time as my brother was at the University of Sussex. We said our goodbyes but not without some tips on the psytrance hotspots of Goa.

10th of January

Woke up at 6.45 and took two public buses towards Arugam Bay. Recovering from the effects of our psytrance friends my mood failed to match this Sri Lankan surfing resort. Not realising that it was out of season in Arugam resembled the litters of a festival that could have ended anything between a day or a year ago. Reggae pubs, seafood restaurants and surf shops exhibited the infrastructure of a surfing resort, which in absence of the surfers felt somewhat chilling, as did the note from the guidebook reminding us that Arugam had been the site of violence in the 26 year Sri Lankan civil War between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Sinhalese. Nevertheless, the beach, walking round the bay lined with Palm Trees, was beautiful and our hostel, which served to house Arugams only travellers retained the character of high season. Our hostel was a place called Beach Hut and had been recommended in a Guardian article on the best beach resorts in Sri Lanka. Our hut, although spider infested, had a view on the sandy beaches of Arugam Bay, never had I

stayed on such a tropical beach or in such close proximity, an experience made all the more exciting when a monkey banged on the roof while we were eating our lunch.

11th of January

Having awoken from my hangover I became increasingly aroused by both our hostel and our location. We took a tuk tuk round the Jungles east of Yala. We saw crocodiles, elephants, bee eaters, peacocks, buffaloos and monkeys all on the insecure but exciting setting of a tuk tuk. On approach to the elephant, our tuk tuk driver had no qualms in the banging the buffaloes out the way to get a better view. In the middle of the jungle were a series of large rocks from which monasteries some 2000 years old were built. Our taxi driver told us some fanatical stories of bears and leopards interrupting meditations, and in one incident, two elephants being warded off by an old monks ‘elephant mantra’. My admiration for Buddhism has grown since listening to Waking Up and if possible I would like to talk to a guru about the subject of consciousness.

12th January

Found out that I’d been accepted onto the UCL Digital Humanities course, an offer that would equip me with humanities related coding skills, mainly centred around research methods. I will need to do some research on the subject, having watched an albeit unimaginative lecture with Susan Hockey.

In Arugam we spent the morning surfing. Boards were a decent price at 500 rupees. Olive exhibited slick skill gliding on waves all the way to the beach. I, on the other hand, was terrible. The wave either broke too fast or too late and I was neither here nor there on my board. Thanks to some challenging words from Olive (‘when I first surfed I didn’t stop until I could stand up’) I was determined to get up on the board and did so twice with around 20 unsuccessful attempts. At lunch we created a tradition known as ‘feels like Fulham Fridays’ where we order and eat western foods. In the afternoon we reconvened with Tissa to unsuccessfully find Elephants. Our disappointment was soon forgotten as the hostel put on a feast of a Sri Lankan banquet. At its centre point was a large fish sliced like a cake for 20 people. Over dinner we chatted about the Grateful Dead and over the increasing worries on AI, a subject that invigorated one man who had just read Homo Deus. We said our initial goodbyes to Gigi a bearded travelling l to a hostel recommended by the latter.

13th of January

We got scammed. A man who looked like a Sri Lankan version of Uncle Monty took us for fools and he was probably right the plan was to take a bus a short tuk tuk away from Arugam, to Monaragala. On arrival to the bus stop a large pig faced man beckoned us behind the bus with a move of his finger. It seemed as though he was hiding from the police and I felt immediately uneasy, however, having promised me he was the bus driver I felt more confident with his advice ‘you will need to take 3 buses to get to Arugam. Get a tuk tuk for 2000 and you can get a direct bus’. At first we refused putting our bags on the bus, yet, surrounded by a group of Sri Lankans we heeled to the pig mans requests, my last words being ‘I feel intimidated’. En route to Siyam Bandura, from where we’d get a direct bus, Uncle Monty stopped looking at the roads in order to face time his girlfriend. Olive was so angry I worried she might snatch the phone and throw it in to the nearby buffalo lake. After 15 minutes of face time he began smoking at the wheel. Our embarrassment was further exaggerated at the service station when the driver refused 4000, as he had stated earlier, instead asking for 4000 each. Immediately we knew we would have choice but to pay. We then had to wait 45 minutes with him for the original bus, giving us ten minutes to let him know he was a crook. Not only had he charged us the price of a black cab to miss the bus, he also prevented us from getting on a bus that went to exactly the same place that his smoke filled face time delivery did. I comforted myself with a whole row of ‘Hawaiian coconut cookies’ that are fast becoming my favourite snack. After 7 hours we arrived at Peacock family stay to find a quiet homestay accompanied by one of Sri Lanka’s most charming beaches.

14th of January

Tangalle was an extraordinary beach. Our early ventures to the beach were rewarded with two shaded hammocks where we did a 9 – 5. I read Midnights Children while Olive swam. I rocked side to side as I was accompanied by Rushdie’s tale of decolonisation and the birth of India. There is much attention on Indian noses, an image I think may refer to the size and shape of India (or Pakistan) on the world map. The book reminds me of Orhan Pamuk’s novels due to its ability to tell a grand history through the subject of an individual narrator. I remember both Boris Johnson and my Mum describing Rushdie as ‘impenetrable’ and thus I took preparation listening to the audiobook before beginning to read.

During intervals where I went to piss in the bushes I took a considerable blow to my head. Running back to the comfort of my hammock I had tunnel vision and banged my head square on the frame with such an impact that my legs lifted as to drop me back first onto the floor. I must have looked like Mr Bean in both my injuries and actions.

Having eaten calamari and rice for lunch we found a bar playing Bob Marley and Guru. We drank two beers as I displayed a gifted masterclass redeeming a 6-1 LOSS at the card game known as shithead by winning 5 straight games in a row, to equalise at 6 all. Having won the first test (first to ten) I was eager to show to myself my skill had not just been beginners luck. We walked home in the dark guided by our iPhone torches and buzzing from the cocktail of a star filled ceiling, the motion of waves and the hum of the jungle. (very similar to the first trip to Wales in 2014 going home from the pub – beautiful memory).

15th of January

Went to the beach again walking up through Tangalle main town – a bustling city with a fruit market, fish stalls and a large street market on Wednesdays. We retraced to lounge to play some more shithead and then walked home eating at a restaurant closer to the hotel. In the evening, Saman, a name shared by an ancient Sri Lankan god, took us to find turtles on the banks of the beach. The Turtle tracks were unmissable looking like two small tractor wheels marked by turtles who propel themselves up the beach by flopping their arms up the sand. We found one had scuttled to the end of the banks to lay eggs. The sound of digging was like a rusty door, although the sound felt unmistakably dinosaur like. According to Saman the turtles return to the same place they were born to lay eggs. It is quite possible this turtle had been going to the same beach for half a century or more. Having distracted the turtle he decided to return to lay eggs another day and in projecting himself down the sand revealed his true beauty, his outer shell was hard rough and round and would have made an effective shield in any Roman army. His skin crackled like an alligator. His head like a bulging sock. Having reached the sea a powerful wave whisked her away in the process stealing one of Olive’s flip flops. The turtle vanished like a stone into the vast ocean, making our short experience of his life all the more infatuating.

16th of January

On the 16th we went to Mirissa – the most populist beach side town in Sri Lanka. On first introduction Olive and I were negative, scorning the marathon happy hours lasting from 4 to 10, however, having both found a spot away from the crowds and then participated in one of these marathons our affections were quickly sweetened. That evening we went to a beach party called ‘Dark Tuesdays’. The event was lit up with fireworks, fire dancers and techno that I vaguely recognised from my exploits with the Bristol Ravers.

17th of January

We found a raft on the beach where we nursed our hangovers. I continued with Midnights Children while Olive read Ministry of Upmost Happiness. At midday we rented snorkels having been promised that we might find turtles along the bay. To our amazement this was more than a shoddy sales technique both finding and swimming with a Turtle for around ten minutes. This was our third turtle in as many days having found one on the dark roads the evening before, The beautiful creature moved and looked fascinating and drew me to a more natural and ancient appreciation of Sri Lanka, offering total juxtaposition to the foreign imports of happy hour and techno.

18th of January

The next day we woke at 6 am in search of stilt fishermen just west of Mirissa. Having taken the public bus to a town some 20 km we could not find any signs of stilt fishermen. A tuk tuk driver claimed that we had till 7 am to watch them in action. This was at 6.45. Having awoken so early we were in no mood to question the tuk tuk drivers motives and raced away only to find coconut stilts erect along an empty coast line. We sleepily plodded back to our hostel with a handful of good photos. I reawoke to Olive’s bulging eyes staring in fright and agitation at a large red beetle. At the expense of our mosquito net and our dignity we removed the bug from our room awaking our neighbours on the way.

That afternoon Olive surfed and we played life size chess. That evening we attended a Reggae party after mojito’s and shithead. Having left the party we went past the infamous ‘hangover hostel’. Having previously booked and cancelled staying there I had continually made a joke about the merits of the mighty Hangover Hostel. The fears of any anxious jokes were realised as on passing by we viewed around a dozen beautiful men and women playing beer pong. The moment we looked they seemed to cheer laugh and drink in chorus, as if to mock us whilst we trudged back to our three room hostel. Our sense of disappointment increased as I realised I didn’t have the key for our room. Having no spare key the hostel owner attempted to dismantle the lock with a screwdriver. After insisting that I could not climb through a Window the size of an A4 window we ventured back to the beach party. Olive found the key buried under a layer of sand at the Mirissa eye. We celebrated at the local roti shop purchasing a chocolate Roti. Having told an English bloke that his T Shirt was on backwards he rather sternly replied he knew and there were ‘much funnier things to see in the Mirissa mate’. Still laughing I apologised saying ‘It says a lot about my sense of humour’… he stares into distance with a look that could pierce a mans soul and he said through gritted teeth ‘it says a lot about your self’.

19th of January

We ate breakfast with a Liverpudlian lady (says a lot about Mirissa) whose uncle had been the manager of the Beatles prior to Epstein. Having fallen out with John Lennon and attempted to put his car on fire the uncle lived his life in deep regret writing a book called ‘The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away’. I reminded her that given the fate of Epstein it probably was best they gave them away. This was the closest I’d ever been to the Beatles and was delighted by the Liverpudlians home stories. At around 10 am we got a bus to Galle. We explored the fort in an afternoon, visiting an extraordinary collection at a place called Mansion House and then walking round a Dutch church from the 17 hundreds. Despite changing hands between the Dutch and the English and originally being built by the former it seemed that there was a continuity and camaraderie between the European colonisers. To this day this European town offers the most sustained architectural effort of Dutch colonialism and remains a powerful symbol of European dominance, offering an insight towards true identity crises found in a post colonial world in attempting to both purge the memory of colonial domination and yet celebrate the fruits of colonialism. This dilemma was demonstrated by the literature festival taking place at the the end of January, where English writers and media figures like Dame Maggie Smith and Sebastian Faulks lead the proceedings. It being Feels like Fulham Fridays we had a pizza and then went home were I began to read Ondatjees ‘Running in the Family’. This was a book written by the man who’d written an English Patient. He had grown up around Colombo, Jaffa and Nuwara Eliya and his name was Tamil in origin. (2) The book was a memoir of sorts condition and imagining his experience of Sri Lanka, going through his own families experience of the country.

20th of January

On this day we spent the morning waking round an unexciting rainforest some 40 minutes east of Galle. For lunch we watched a club cricket game eating Roti’s as I explained to Olive the rules and culture of Cricket. Afterwards we went to a hostel where I borrowed a laptop and uploaded photos to Withnail and Olive. Having planned the structure between Tangalle and Mirissa the process was quick taking just an hour. I split the photos into two sections: Mountain Country: Ella and Kandy, and then Coastal Towns: East to South Coast. I selected around twenty photos and was very pleased at what I had to play with. I found and find this way of travel writing very exciting and am yet to join the photo’s with audio recordings and may not be able to upload my time lapse without paying a great sum of money, nevertheless the photos and the website look good.

21st of January and 22nd: The Big Pilgrimage

We woke at around 5 to begin a marathon pilgrimage. Starting from Galle we had to take 3 buses to get to a mountain town called Dalhousie. From Dalhousie we would ascended the pilgrimage sight known as Adams Peak. (3) Were waking up at 5 not bad enough the tradition with Adam’s Peak was to ascend at 2 in the morning. Under the echoes of the call to prayer we purchased our on the road breakfast (milo’s and coconut biscuits) and began our commute. From Galle we clinged to the west coast for around 4 hours where we were delivered to a new bus at Columbo. At Columbo we found a Bus to Hatton, where we then got on a bus full of sun burnt European backpackers arriving at the footsteps of Adams Peak at around 5 or 6.3 We spent the evening playing shithead at a roadside café that only played Bob Marley. The town was very strange. Stallswere lit with harsh lights, selling hats, scarves, flowers and Buddha (Jesus and Ganesh…) statues. Sri Lankans arrived in their bus loads some daring to assent the peak in just the flip flop.

(2) I once went on a date with his niece in Bishops Park. She was lovely.
(3) I had a very enjoyable listen to the Bon Iver record 22, A Million, connecting deeply with the song Creeks.

were lit with harsh lights, selling hats, scarves, flowers and Buddha (Jesus and Ganesh…) statues. Sri Lankans arrived in their bus loads some daring to assent the peak in just the flip flop.

We went to bed early getting around 2-3 hours rest before climbing the mountain at 2 am. I opted for the Timbaland boot rather than flip flop, and relied upon the Mars bar rathe than the roti to power me up the peak. The peak towered over Dalhousie offering a long and winding path lit up by bright white lights and decorated with Buddhist flags and Buddhist statues whereas the religiously inclined walked in the tradition of their respective gods I walked in honour of my mind, volleying between meditating through my nose and mediating with Olive on the historical memories of South Africa and Berlin. We were fast arriving at the summit at around 4.30 am. At the top was a large Pagoda, with both a building for pilgrims and ten monks to sleep. Olive and I sat tightly packed by Sri Lankan Buddhists and a Russian couple listening to the Talking Head’s song Born Under Punches. After hours waiting the sun began to rise on a view that a 13 century Christian monk had once described as the living equivalent of the Garden of Eden. Thousands of photo’s were taken – none of them capturing the beauty of the purple sunrise. When the sun was stable in the sky we descended walking past three American hipsters who had lost their camera drone somewhere on the the peak. We found our way back at the hotel around seven stopping for tea along the way.

22nd January (after Adams Peak)

After Adams Peak we went to the waterfall to find a large group of monkeys. The monkeys bought out the ape. I was amazed at how reckless they played flinging themselves across trees the size of the waterfall and fighting over coconuts, Olive however was not nearly so enthusiastic feigning a toilet trip to escape from the monkey fun. Angry at having been fooled by Olive she then capitalized on my misfortune by winning 6 or 7 games of Shithead. Having won the test the previous evening it seemed likely that she would now go on to win the Sri Lankan series.

23rd January

We embarked on another mammoth journey towards Sigiriya taking 4 buses this time and arriving in the afternoon. We went to a Reggae Bar that evening where Olive finalised her shithead victory, winning the Sri Lankan series.

That evening a muscley American man with tattoo’s wearing a wife beater asked us if we’d like a drink. Noticing his yanky twang I asked how he’d found himself in Sri Lanka to which he responded ‘ten years ago I got blown up by an IED’ and then proceeded to explain his remarkable life story about how he had set up schools and hostels in Guatemala, sending in total 500 kids through education, and was attempting to do the same in the war torn north of Sri Lanka. This unfailing confidence was unfailing and while Olive’s comparison to him as ‘the Buddha’ was a little bit of an exaggeration, if there was a zombie apocalypse I know who I’d want my partner to be. He invited us to a party on the 27th and even suggested we should go take acid with him up north. Saying our farewells I went to sleep wishing, along with every other 22 year old, that I had a grandfather who had been in the SAS.

24th of January

On the 24th we grabbed bikes from the nearest newsagents and planned to cycle towards Dambulla. Overestimating the length of the journey to the caves and underestimating the quality of the bikes we found ourselves on a rather difficult 40 km bike journey. My front breaks didn’t work and Olive’s bike attempted to permanently prevent her from having Children. The caves themselves, ranging from some 2000 years ago to 1600 years ago, offered well preserved statues and wall paintings of the Buddha. One cave painted the Buddha in full lying on his side. In the evening we climbed up a smaller rock next to Sigirirya just in time for sunset. I made bad attempts at pretending to hold the rock in the style of Atlas.

25th of January

We left early in the morning to get a bus from Dambulla to Anuradhapura. On the bus old ladies attempted to give us their seat, a tradition so strange to a Londoner that it is absurdly funny. When we got to Anuradhapura it became immediately apparent that we had been sent to a hostel that didn’t exist. Having then been passed around by tuk tuk drivers like a baton in a relay race trying to make us stay in empty hotels, we refused all offers of home stays and sought refuge in Pizza Hut. From there it took us a Margherita Pizza and Wifi to direct ourselves towards a Capital City hostel. We then gave ourselves an afternoon of rest before going to a Sri Lankan sports restaurant. After a squelchy trip to a toilet plagued with spiders I began to question the toilets hygiene. Having then found a rat with a tail as long as a life time I could then confirm the restaurant was indeed unhygienic.

26th of January

Anuradhapura is famous for being the most important ancient city in all of Sri Lanka. Traces of 4th century coins provided evidence of trading with both the Chinese and the Romans. Accompanied by three ladies from the South of England (one of them Seb Lat’s ex girlfriend) we visited two large Pagoda’s, one brick one white, a tree planted from the seeds of the tree that Buddha found enlightenment under, two ponds and a moon stone. At its peak 10,000 monks lived in Anuradhapura and while the mossy overgrow presentation left it hard to imagine a fully formed city, there was nevertheless an ancient magic to the space, akin to that of Pompeii and Herculaneum. That morning the hostel had set me a challenge to find the moon stone, in return we were rewarded with a gem stone that I quickly smashed on the floor.

27th of January

On the advice of the girls from the South of England we then went to Jaffra, the Capital of the North and the home of Sri Lanka’s Hindu population. On entrance to Jaffra you pass this vast stretch of land called Elephants pass. Here is where fighting was bitterly taken out between Tigers and the Military. Today the only traces are a large bronze war memorial and a memorial of an international attempt to clear the field still littered with mines. The stretch of the journey felt deeply moving, reflecting on my own freedom and excitement in the face of such tragedy. Life is something worth enjoying and to enjoy moments in the same place young men met their nightmares, could arguably be life’s greatest commemoration. A funeral should be a celebration, deep meditation deeper thought that sticks with you much later than the ceremony. Jaffra, along with the whole of Sri Lanka offers and actively prevents any ‘errinerung. geschicte’, the wounds are still saw and the memory volatile, nevertheless it is clear the war remains at the forefront of the societal collective consciousness. The city itself was visibly hidden, with compartments of streets selling jewellery, fabrics and fruits. We ate lunch at a large building where food was served on banana leaves and customers were expected to eat with their hands, rather amusing given that there were indeed a lot of tourists. That evening we ate at a South Indian restaurant called Mango, where we had an electric lime and soda, accompanied with Paratha’s and Paneer. We ordered WAY too much Paneer.

28th January

In the morning we took a bus to the Island of Katys a strange place but had some dozen catholic churches, originally inhabited by the European Catholics. In the main town I took photos of the skeletons of the colonial world. In particular I was excited by a gutted villa called St. Anthony, that presumably housed the clergy. Whether it was from the civil war or the war of time, the house was gutted with little effort for preservation or protection. Either way the whole town had been destroyed and left silent, like a Catholic area of Disneyland at night. We then went and had both lunch and dinner at the same places in Jaffna.

29th of January

We got a 9.30 train to Columbo. Having just got comfortable we were given the rather uncomfortable news that we had got the 10 hour slow train arriving in Colombo no later than 7.30. The train nevertheless was painless, a group ahead of us finishing off a bottle of Arack before we’d arrived at Anuradhapura. Free from alcohol we lubricated the senses with podcasts, listening to one on the Trump presidency and another on the Russia scandal. The former debated religion in the 21st century as well as the death of democracy, developing ideas on how to help society here and now. My favourite quote was along the lines of: how could people think that the online world would replace rather than accompany our conscious life. We arrived in Colombo to find a city with little soul apart from those super rich, pissed and spent in business lounges and casinos. Unfortunately there was little for the back packer to do.

30th of January

Got a whole new outfit in 2 minutes; Sri Lankan cricket shirt; trousers and lens cap = had Crab! 31st of January

We spent the day walking round Colombo. We visited the cultural museum, housed by a beautiful white Victorian building amalgamating a collection of history from past to present. This acted as a presentation of a lot of things we had already viewed and experienced whilst travelling around Sri Lanka e.g. Anuradhapura to the advent of British imperialism. That evening we went for dinner with Olive’s granny’s family friends Anita and Ralph. We went then on the rooftop of their hotel for mocktails (an account of it being a national holiday, thus prohibiting alcohol all over Sri Lanka). Their hostel gave us a birds eye view of the state of Columbo, from where we could survey the new area of artificial land being built and constructed by the Chinese. This was the most obvious example of Chinese imperialism in Sri Lanka. Along with the artificial fort there were Chinese state funded hotels all around the city, a Chinese nightclub and Chinese signs all over Columbo and Galle.

We had dinner where Geoffrey Bauer, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, had once had a studio. The food was nice, although I ordered ravioli thinking that it was risotto. Company was pleasant and Ralph charmed us with his gentle storytelling. We took a Jaguar to and from the hotel making us Columbo city hostels most glamorous customers of all time.

1st February

We went to a purgatory town called Negrombo where we waited for our flight to India ready to embark on a new adventure. We used up the last of our rupees to the very last one, I had to exchange two sterling pounds just to purchase water!

2nd February

Arrived at the airport around three hours early, however, our time limit was challenged as in order to fly to India we had to prove we were leaving the country. Thanks to strange Indian bureaucracy and bad wifi this seemingly easy task turned into an episode of 24 taking and successfully purchasing a ticket 5 minutes after the desk was scheduled to close. Such was the rush, that we managed to continue a family tradition of failing to send post cards from the correct country.

The flight was quick taking just an hour. We arrived on the doorstep of an emerging super power and boy did we feel it. Billboards towered over us as we took an AC BUS (!) to Fort Cochin. Fort Cochin had been originally conquered by Vasco De Gama in the late 15th century by the Dutch and then the British up until 1949. The fort has the oldest church throughout the whole of India, presiding over the most Christian State in the country. Refuge is also permitted to Non-Religious peoples as the Communist Party has symbols over almost every street as well as little shops exhibiting photo’s of Lenin, Marx and Che Guevara, clouded by smoke and chatter over cards and television.

We spent the evening playing the start of shithead championships in India where I took a comfortable lead in the first test.

3rd of February

On our second day in Kochin we walked over the whole town. In the morning we walked round a Dutch palace exhibiting the Fort’s colonial history. Notable parts of the exhibition were 1) it’s price = 20p 2) the labelling of European empires as having a ‘lust for power’. India has an interesting position on colonial history, offering an Indian centred narrative condemning colonialism whilst also being very much designed in the image of the colonial project in many ways celebrating their role within the legacy and fairytale of the commonwealth.

4th of February

We travelled to the famous Keralan backwaters staying in a beautiful 16th century Indian town next to a Janian temple. We then walked to the beach to find a congregation of Indian people standing (not sitting) to watch the sunset, exhibiting, a primal wonder of staring at an abstract planet that lends us all the life that we know.

5th of February

We woke at 5.30 AM to take the sun rise kayak tour. We entered the many streams like red blood cells being carried through the veins. All the while the sun rose setting fire to the backwaters turning their colours gold yellow and orange. We were the only peoples around the lake rising before the people of Kerala, who come out after sunrise to wash themselves or brush their teeth in the water. After four hours of continuous kayaking we were granted a breakfast of curry and ginger tea. That afternoon we went and got a bus to Munnar, tea country. Having spent a day debating between Munnar and even Goa we went for the closest.

The bus twisted and turned 6 hours up towards Munnar. We were accompanied at the back of the bus by a friendly bunch of travellers. Arriving in Munnar we became victims of segregation when we were told we couldn’t stay in our reserved hotel on account of us being foreign! With the fire of prejudice in our veins we went and found a hostel that contained almost everyone who had been on our bus.

6th February

  • –  Woke up at 6am to go on a trek around the tea fields of Mysore.
  • –  Joined by 3 people who lived in Peckham. 1 in Brixton.
  • –  Originally asked for the half day and then opted for the full day.
  • –  Couple from Brixton just married and were on their honeymoon travelling with friends along the way. One of them was a model and one of them was an artist.
  • –  We were given advice to go to Goan Corner in Hampi. Tasted raw Cardamom, Cocoa beans, Chilli. The Cocoa beans where white and chewy turning purple after being crunched and spat. The farm houses lay out Cardamom and Cocoa seeds outside the houses. 7th of February
  • –  Found a quiet spot behind our hostel where we sat in a silence uninhabited by the presence of people and their mobile phones.
  • –  Got a bus from Munnar to Mysore. The bus arrived at 4.30 AM and had no beds. With an inflatable pillow and a series of BBC Desert Island Disks we made the journey. The greatest excitement followed the 2AM trip through the Safari park. At first we literally had to stop the vehicle as an elephant crossed the road in front of us. Safari’s are best done at night when there are few visitors and the animals begin to roam. This was confirmed when we spotted a tiger.
  • –  In my half dazed state I, unlike Olive, was aware that both our bus and an approaching bus had come to a halt with the approaching bus shining a powerful beam of light into the jungle night. At first, not being used to seeing a big cat I thought – ‘that looks really ‘like a tiger’’. Then I realised that it was in fact the genesis, the mother tongue, the source – an Indian tiger. Making this connection I then told Olive all too late, staring into nothing as I shouted ‘TIGER’. 8th of February Arrived at Mysore and got a tuk tuk to our Hostel Mansion. We arrived too early and the gates were padlocked. Eventually we were allowed to sleep in the lobby and after a while Olive noticed she had lost her phone previously giving it to the tuk tuk driver. I initially made brave and stupid plans to go to the Taxi rank and fight him. Instead Olive called till she got through to him. At 5 the tuk tuk driver returned with the phone looking for a handsome reward. The mansion was an old 20th century British mansion. It had Roman pillows, a rooftop and courtyard and a book shelf with the works of Dickens and Thackeray. It was one of those buildings that smelt of rotting flesh and imperialist dreams, however it had been reorganised into a charming hostel offering yoga with training yoga instructors. After lunch a man called Surish (?) picked us up from the restaurant near the hostel and took us 4 km away to a street market and then to his shop where he showed us his large collection of ayuverdic oils that were said to cure something and everything. He took us upstairs where he offered relish and marijuana which was said to be legal in Karnataka. 9th February

Bought an overnight train ticket to Hampi (note: this was where an Indian man discretely took a picture of Olive from a bus).

Went to a street market displaying so much life it could resurrect a dead saint. Each aisle was buzzing with fresh fruit, veg and flowers, the latter the pick of the bunch. Mountains of flowers were compartmentalised into colours, one for red roses, one for yellow flowers. The Mysore flower men sorted them into different patterns as we went round and round the market like we were waiting to get onto our favourite rollercoaster.

I bought a suitcase that would last the total of around a week before the wheels spectacularly fell off.

10th February

We went to the zoo to watch the humans squark over a peacock opening its feathers.

Zoo’s are disgusting. They are stupid. Just in the way Foucault claims that any text tells you about the discursive structure then the Zoo offers a good sociological example.

We derive satisfaction from the active captivity of these animals, what we perceive as a trip towards nature is in reality the creation of an unnatural space – a circus – a carnival.

In the evening we got on a train to Hampi accompanied by an Australian couple named Lauren and Angus who would go on to cause us great entertainment for the rest of the Trip.

11th February

Arriving into Hampi we took a tuk tuk and a small boat to an area of the Island called Goan corner, the recommendation we had received from our Peckham friend in Munnar. Here we found our first experience of the hippie trail, crusty’s smoked weed and chatted about ohm. Outside our room was a selection of people who had gone to India after quitting their jobs, they were all there to rock climb and were rock climbing under the leadership of an older Dutch man called Bart, a good looking 40 something year old who had obviously decided to spend a life time having fun.

I realised that I had lost my passport. Sorry not I, we. Before going to bed on the sleeper train I asked Olive to put her passport in her bag as it was on her bed and she was sleeping on it. Olive said no because she did not want the responsibility of losing it, however, after a while I persuaded her to look after it. When we got up I was certain she had it, however, she did not and would have to use all of our dormant wits to arrange a new travel document with our hostel owner, a larger than life woman providing great support. We decided especially to spend the next day searching for our things.

12th February

Went to the train station got directed to the wrong place twice and then randomly found the correct one.

Introduced to a man called Ramesh who knew the cleaners and ticket inspectors and WhatsApp’d all of them. He then took us to the Hampi police station where we had to obtain the ‘all important police report’. Having lost the passport on the train we were required to file a complaint with a police station some 60 KM away in order to obtain a report that would let us get a passport from the British Embassy in Goa. Instead, Ramesh told us to lie to the police to acquire the necessary document. At first we were turned away being told to go to the police station on our side of the island. After reconvening with Ramesh he advised us to return with a cash bribe, when I protested he silenced me saying ‘just say you can “do something for them?”’. Thankfully we were charming enough to not resort to cash corruption and we played innocent whilst feeling nervous and received the necessary lost passport report.

That afternoon we took a German scooter around our side of the Island. At one point we walked up to monkey temple and found ourselves likening it to a setting from Star Wars. ‘Coincidentally’ just 20 minutes later a stocky topless English lad said ‘amazing to think this was where they filmed Star Wars Pne’. Having obviously overheard/recognised us’ he went on to say, ‘of course the best film setting was when they filmed Love Actually at Eliot’. It turned out that he was from Fulham with the friends he was travelling with living near me in Putney. They were my brothers age and understandably had mutual friends. That afternoon, Olive impressed me with her scooter skills as we did a full circuit round the island.

Goan corner was nice and we were joined by Angus and Lauren as well as people like Dan, a 19 year old from England, a sharp witted Australian who helped with engineering in the gold mines in Perth. There was a free communal spirit which felt different to any experience in Sri Lanka.

13th of February

We returned Ramesh’s favour by taking his tour around the ruins of Hampi. Not only was the sight huge, bigger than Ancient Rome, his company was humorous and informative. Hampi was a spectacular renaissance Hindu town that had been destroyed in a sixty year siege by the Muslims. While the main of the city lay in ruins it’s cream coloured skeletons led to a exciting sight seeing, evoking the intoxicating memory of a civilisation removed from the face of the earth. The city of Hampi was built amongst an army of boulders. Temples were built on top of boulders temples were built on boulders on top of boulders placed in the ornate nature of a ballet dancer with the strength of a wolf? It was setting I have never seen anything like and whose setting was more spectacular (or rivalling) that of ancient Pompey and Herculaneum.

That evening we climbed the highest boulder where we me, Olive, Dan, Sydney and and Jess watched the sunset. I then spent the evening engrossed with a man called Andy chatting about the self and squash.

14th of February

Spent the morning in Hampi before taking the overnight bus to Panjim where I was to get a replacement from the British embassy. Angus Lauren and a British couple were on our bus going to Palolem in the South of Goa.

15th of Febraury

We spent the morning replacing my passport. One of the benefits in being British is the presence of British bureaucracy, combine this with being a tourists in the centre for Indian trance music and replacing a passport becomes almost a rite of passage for Brits abroad. Panjim was a beautiful town designed and built by the Portugese. Walking through the Old Town felt as close to going to South America as India gets.

16th of February

Collected the passport and made our way from Panjim in search of booze and psytrance. We got just that finding Mank a man whom we knew from drinking in Ella. Mank was a South African whom quite literally ran a psytrance label, under his intoxicated guidance we were taken to a psytrance rave run by the Mafia. It was vital that ‘Shivas’ was run by the Mafia, because they and only they could either bribe or scare away the police.

17th February

Having had our fix of the impenetrable sounds of psytrance we decided against a second days party, instead going to a charming Greek restaurant where we ate souvlaki and toasted our three year anniversary. We in turn had a conversation that stimulated our memories and recalled three years of Bristol, friends and, at moments, being in love.

18th of February

We went to Arambol to meet Bea and her friends Trillz, Bertie and Willow, all of all of whom (aside from Willow) had shaved their heads resembling either Buddhist monks or Lauren Hill. We went to a reggae evening inhabited by Krusties and travellers socialising and dancing to songs Dj’d by a dreadlocked man who was probably used to Lakota and lived in Bristol. The crowd where a collection of the most attractive people I have seen in India, including Bea and her friends. The Crowd represented my attraction towards Bohemian styles that became all the more revealing in the Goan sun. Funnily enough there was a fat man wearing a High Focus T-Shirt – he was from Chepstow.

19th February

I stayed in Bed finishing Midnight’s Children a book that had taken me over a month to read. The ending was rewarding and did not feel rushed, however, had I not listened to the audiobook I almost certainly would’ve been lost. The final scene offers the pickle as a metaphor for India. That evening we had dinner and said our farewells to the group of Lauryn Hills.

20th February – 27th

We then made our way south to Gorkana, an area of the coast comparative to Goa of the 70’s and 80’s, before it had been colonised by hippies and psytrance in the name of ‘ohm’. We went and rented a shack at a resort called Uma Gardens, where Rose from Ella, recommended and resides for months at a time.

Having originally planned to stay for just 3 evenings we elongated our rest for 7 days, allowing me to rest enough to get ill, visit the neighbouring Ohm beach as well as spend a day on the empty Paradise Beach. Sunset was enjoyed every evening. The Red Sun dissolved into the sea whilst travellers waded through the water as though attempting to catch the sun as it fell. The Sun King however could not be caught and dived deep down to the bottom of the sea. Going to Sunset’ was all the craze, and a market stalls were set up selling items and crafts like ‘dreadlock making’ and a palm reading conducted by a man with Gandhi glasses who sat in a small pen protected with an umbrella.

28th February

We arrived in Mumbai on an overnight coach. The Taxi driver from the bus station suggested that life was better when the British were in charge, saying that there was no pollution. He then suggested that Jews were controlling major American corporations in India.We stayed a stones-throw from the gateway to India, the Taj Mahal Palace and a thoroughfare of shops Mumbai was clouded by smoke squinting eyes to see through the dirty air.

1st of March

We visited a slum in central India in with the two Americans who were in our dorm. The slum is sequenced by square meter the most populated place on earth, rather than being a product of idle poverty, the slum was the site of active excitement and commerce. In total a turnover of £700 million is made every year mainly, rather comically given the amount of rubbish, through the recycling industry. We ducked and dived down the streets of the slum continually under cover of shade as the mass of people and buildings blackened the suns envoy. That evening we watched a Bollywood movie called Tina and Sutty and for the first time watched a movie without subtitles or direct translation. In this modern age films probably do not come more 2D than Bollywood and we could decipher almost everything the director wanted to show. Capitalism was on display in a gimmicky and novel film that was a perfect document of the attitudes of modern popular India.

2nd of March

Happy Holi! The hostel advised us not to leave our hotel having set up a table of with four bowls of different colours advising us to play around the table rather than returning into the treacherous carnival of Mumbai. After a dutch lady threatened to throw paint down Olive’s bra we quickly decided to venture into the carnival. My idea was to take a picture matching of the cover of the Lonely Planet whilst Olive battled in the paint, however, after immediately getting covered in a corrosive red powder I soon realised the Lonely planet photo could wait. We walked through Chowpatty beach doing our best impressions of men in the BEF. Having survived the first tour we turned to the street only to soon be captured by a large Indian family who led us back towards Chowpatty drowning us with paint and fuelling us with gelabi’s and balls resembling falafels. It was odd and unusual to find men and women playing. The game consisted of running around throwing paint and splashing water. The whole thing was positively infantile. Halfway through the celebrations, painted like a tie dye t shirt of a combination of colours so strange that no one would buy, even in Ella, I went to play a game of football with a team of lads from Chennai. They were really rubbish at Football and I know this because I was the best footballer scoring two goals and winning my team the game. According to Olive the adopted gamily had caused an absolute fuss in my departure, commonly barking ‘WHERE’S SAM!!’

We spent drinking outside backpack Panda drinking strong Kingfishers. I got talking to a lovely lady named Toni who was open enough to discuss her decision to take anti depressants as long as she didn’t drink and could take acid twice a year. This dedication was from prior experience of depression and alcoholism and

who felt she had been travelling to shake off these pit falls. Most interestingly this woman had fallen victim to the hermeneutic labyrinths of social media, I told her of my own grievances and she listened understood and agreed with everything I said. She bemoaned how she posted photo’s of her experiences in Japan yet felt betrayed by her conscious and emotional state.

3rd of March

We got an afternoon bus to Udaipur making the idiotic decision to get a non-ac bus. The conductor provided neither blankets nor a solution to close our window. Through the evening we were sent through seven stages of consciousness where we went in and out of consciousness rather than in and out of sleep. Another blunder was the stoical decision not to eat lunch that left us fating until dinner, when a Samosa bowled me over with culinary enjoyment. We arrived in Udaipur in low moods and split personalities.

4th of March

Udaipur was beautiful and familiar. When people describe places as the ‘Indian Venice’ they are obviously bored 19th century soldiers who need something exciting to transcend them from imperial life. Udaipur on the other hand is a marvellous Islamic town, arguably the most beautiful that I have visited with exception of Istanbul. I bought three tailored Nehru collared shirts in cream, light and dark blue.

5th of March

Having stayed only one evening we decided to move towards Jaisalmer to go on a desert trek This led to another overnight bus where we thankfully took an ac night bus that gave a closed window and a blanket.

6th of March

We were immediately collected by a guide who took us to the ‘bosses house’ for a shower and then took us to the office. Jaisalmer was honey sand coloured fort that looked exactly like the kind represented in painting of the Orient.4

That afternoon we drove 40 kilometres out of town to a desert village where we were met with chai and then introduced to our camels. My trusty stead was called Michael. He was a little braver then the rest and a whole lot heavier. We trekked with our guide triple S along with a married couple, the man from Canada, the woman from Mexico. We travelled for 2 hours to unspoilt sand dunes. We were Brough more chair, overly sugary with a smokey tinge, and looked at the sunset listening to David Bowie Heroes and Jimi Hendrix wing. Again we were surprised that the Sun was also present in Jaisalmer just as it had in South West London, just bigger and bolder, as thought the setting was a performance for me and Olive.

The beds rolled onto an army bed and included duvets and pillows – no sleeping bags – offering the greatest sleep of the whole trip.

7th March

Again we arose with Chair saying our farewells to the married couple we embarked on the second day of the trek. Triple strengthen with booze and cigs at the local town Olive ordered two strong beers, triple 5 retuned with 5 bottles called ‘BULLET 0 Superstrong’. We were then told to drink the 8% beer at lunch when the desert reached temperatures of 40 degrees and locals huddled under shade or into huts. We were joined by a gang of local kids who forced us to play a bizarre card game that I soon retired from in order to read Orhan Pamuk’s new book the ‘Red Haired Woman’ which cost just 400 rupees from the local book shop in Udaipur. Olive entertained them in a good humour as I reconciled in boredom. Later on the sand dunes we played a game of capture the hat (just me and olive) from the persons head, where blind folded we had to wear a hat whilst the other attempted to grab it from them. Once again we played the Jaisalmer playlist and slept under a ceiling of stars that were familiar to a European a millennia age. (note: aside from the momentary walk in Munnar, this was the only moment of privacy that we had throughout the entire trip).

4 Had a very strong connection to the Radiohead song Just, as we ate lunch next to where they were filming an advert for the IPL. Rajahstan Royals star player was none other than English all rounder Ben Stokes.

8th of March

Completed the trek and arrived in Jaisalmere where we had a shower and then were taken hostage until we wrote a trip advisor review. We reasoned our way out claiming the wifi didn’t work. We then got a day bus to Jodhpur arriving in the buzzing blue labyrinth and the Jodhpur markets, staying at a hostel that exhibited photos from the Wes Anderson film Darjeeling Express. That evening I was just getting to sleep when there was a knock on the door; standing outside was a heavily built Indian man who said he was working for a big Bollywood movie and wandered would I like to be an extra, as much as I liked the thought of dressing up as an EIC soldier for a day. I was also aware that the uniqueness of travelling was enough and delivered knowing that the offer of being in a Bollywood movie was enough to tick off the bucket list.

9th of March

We visited Jodhpur Fort. En route to the Fort an Indian man gave us directions to the Fort having found it he asked for a selfie and then immediately posted the photo on Facebook with the caption ‘my new friends’, was it true that Facebook was now substituting real life experiences for Facebook representations? Were these a shallow and hollow form of authorship, or just a sad game demonstrating status and authority to their friends? Nevertheless it took some skill on my behalf to shake him off. We were given an excellent audio guide tour of the fort.

10th of March

We took a bus to Pushkar, a regular spot on the infamous backpacker trail and the site of another Indian town that had been colonised by long hairs and crusty’s wearing clothes with ohm belts and smoking weed. The latter was almost enforced due to a city wide drinking ban.There was a famous hostel called ‘Pineapple Express’ which, unsurprisingly like the movie, was a favourite with stoners.

Unimpressed with the town due to its ‘counter culture’ commercialisation I failed to enjoy Pushkar. The problem with the hippy backpacker trail is that it lacks relevance. The Beatles only spent 6 weeks in India and Ravi Shankar was the only real cultural export. Therefore I fail to resonate with the ‘counter culture’ of India. It feels like an awkward relationship that fails to exhibit any authenticity unless one counts Bob Marley flags as a stalwart of modern culture. These hubs are Camden market without the Roundhouse or the Electric Ballroom, they are areas commercialising the beautiful India setting without any knowledge of the religion. They are movie sets not Indian towns nor Indian culture.

11th of March

Today Olive blagged us a lift to Jaipur with an English lady called Sina. She was an India specialist working first for a luxury brand agents and then for a charity supporting Tibetan refugees in Dharmsala. The capital of Tibetan Refugees in Exile. She told us how she worked for an apolitical organisation who were attempting to simply to look after Tibetans. She said the Dalai Lama no longer felt Tibet was going to be free and and also that the Dalai Lama believed that he would be the final reincarnation. We arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City, found a hostel whose value for money was ridiculous We walked round the city gates.

12th of March

We organised a day tour with a charming man named Ganesh. He took us to the Pink fort a large but dull fort with many rooms and passageways totally empty. People scuttled round the fort doing everything they could not to step in direct sunlight. The information was indigestible and the audio guides were out of stock. After a disappointing visit Ganesh took us to a local restaurant that seemed the sort of cheap and high quality food that can be ordered in a country with over a billion people. Here, the chefs took all day and improve their craft, in the UK the only equivalent are our fast food restaurants and bakeries like Greggs.

Later we were driven from the city and then taken to a Jewellery shop. The shop executed a marvellous ceremony in which we were both poured drinks offered cigarettes and hashish in celebration of ‘Papas birthday’. We were told to give ‘papi’ handshakes and hugs and to call him by his name ‘papa’.

It must have been papa’s birthday everyday. Nevertheless we celebrated the mans birthday with jewellery and earrings for our mothers and sisters.

13th of March

We left Rajasthan in view of visiting the north of India going to the Indian Himalaya’s in Himachal Pradesh. Unfortunately we had to stop off in Delhi. On entrance the lobby seemed clean and modern, however, this tranquility was interrupted by a mouse scuttling across the floor. Our room was 4 beds chained together. The fan had been defunct since the 1970’s our window was simply a whole looking onto a busy street. Quickly bundling out of our hotel we spilled onto Delhi’s main bazaar – a confused array of souvenirs, clothes shops and India’s rooftop restaurants selling beer in tea pots. The heart beat of the city was irregular and the breathing polluted. After a sleep interrupted by pollutions of many different genre’s we were glad to get a train to Himachal Pradesh.

14th of March

We got a train to Simla. Unbeknown to me this had been the capital of British India during the Indian Summer. Given Indian summers were 8 months long this was the central seat of the British in India, whose ‘India’ included modern day Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. From photos the high street now full of Indian honey mooners and once looked like something one might find in the villages of Surrey with hatched cottages and a large church, the latter still standing today. The temperature allowed us to swap t-shirts for thermals and sheets for duvets, demonstrating the reason the British in India flocked from Kolkuta and Delhi to the cottages of Simla.

15th of March

We walked to the viceroy’s mansion finding the greatest colonial gem of the travels. With grand views over the Himalayas, the viceroys house was built like a Scottish stately home. Originally devised by Lord Lytton, the house laid down the foundation for the independence and partition of India, housing minds like Nehru, Gandhi and Lord Mount Batten. Today the house was a social sciences institute and one of the best in India. Far from the rest of mainland India Simla was described as Britain’s great ‘greatest ‘cradle of destruction’, a place where fortified stately homes inspired a handful of Briton’s designing the fortunes of hundreds of millions of subjects. Later we visited the church were India’s Victorian elite had sat awaiting immortal salvation. The walls demonstrated the scope and scale of the British Empire celebrating plaques of locals, Britons and British soldiers. From Egypt to Sri Lanka, these British men were commemorated in modern India’s most celebrated honeymoon spot. Whilst Simla had long been deserted by the British the Church offered a monument of a life that seemed all the more bizarre in today’s globalized world. To imagine Simla as a British settlement does not so much stimulate the historical imagination as it confuses it. In response I read the imperial chapters of John Keay’s History of India to give some instruction and method to the madness of the past.

16th of March

After Simla we took a Bus to Manali, the Gorkana of the north. The bus route was beautiful but dangerous. On one side lay the glacial Bea lake whilst on the other lay a rock face carved by the hand of dynamite. We arrived in central Manali and took a tuk tuk to Backpacker Panda in between old and new Manali. As it was off season we were given a deluxe room for half price. The room was more glamorous than a 4* hotel and a 20th of the price. We had a large window looking onto the snowy peaks of Manali, fast wifi, a hot shower and telly showing Premier League Football and Friends. That evening we drank bottles of local Manali cider and ordered a room service dinner of Dal, naan, rice and aloo gobi. High from the cider we laughed loudly at continuous episodes of Friends.

17th of March

We went for breakfast next to Bea river in Old Manali. We ate croissants and eggs as an elderly white man performed what looked like a daily Thai Chi performance. Afterwards we walked the mountain through the pine forests, where monkeys played and apple orchards branches eagerly awaited apple growth in June and July. That evening we had Fish and Chips. Asking whether or not the fish was locally sourced Olive was met with the disappointing assertion that yes the fish was local – coming from the local fish farm. Unlike Pushkar, Old Manali was a stop on the Hippie trail that retained its character and charm. In fact, this was because its character was the product of the collision of tectonic plates and the subsequent creation of large jagged caves creating one of the world’s most intimidating and beautiful creatures. Faux counter-culturalists could never

colonise such a vicious and beautiful natural beast. Anyone who visit’s the Himalaya’s must bow his head in honour of this natural wonder.

18th of March

The 18th of March was a day of calamity. It started with a failed breakfast where a Paratha and Jam toast took around half an hour, eating in on OYO dining room where the Bollywood song from the film we had seen in Mumbai, ‘jiggy jiggy bum bum’, was played through the loudspeaker of someone’s phone.

After a disappointing breakfast we embarked on a walk recommend by the Old Manahli Jewler cum psychedelics dealer. Walking twenty minutes we were met with a large gate saying at the bottom ‘keep safe distance from large animals’. Cautiously we walked short of breath along the face of a forest, our minds bearing anxious thoughts of bear attacks making our hearts thump to a level that surely any bear would hear and then make us his prey. After walking 50 meters in 20 meters our anxious minds took charge and directed us back out the gates. Our minds raced to find an alternative plan for the day. Instead we were to get a tour of the mountains in the back of curious mans taxi.

Immediately we asked about the bears and were told with little enthusiasm that there were no such bears in the Himalayas. Keen to make up for our amazement of cowardice we seized the opportunity to go skiing. Suited and booted in ski suits that looked like they were from a Wham video we were put on a donkey in search of the slopes. As the donkey galloped up the hill I felt the rising of my testorone levels. At one point the guide even gave Olive the reigns, possibly symbolising how we had regained control of our day. Getting off our donkeys we eagerly ran towards the snow. To our horror all we could see were Indian families in Ski suits playing along the outskirts of the snow. Surely this was not it. On closer inspection the ‘skiing guides’ were dragging customers along black snow whilst their colleague’s sat around laughing and eating noodles. The flat slopes set my testosterone levels rocketing down. Within 10 minutes we were back on the donkey making plans to get a refund. ‘No refund I will take you to the snow’ said our taxi driver, ‘you can ski there’. Not understanding that snow was in no way conducive to what we called skiing we refused, returning to the ski slope and negotiation a 75% refund. Fed up we abruptly ended our terrible tour hoping that we had not broken the tour guides spirit and potentially lost his job as a ‘tour guide’. Hopefully he will no longer advertise skiing.

In the evening we went to a balcony restaurant that looked onto the mountains of Manali. We spent the evening watching Darkness descend on the Himalayan beast, playing Chess and chatting to an Austrian who was on a strict diet of smoking ‘Manahli Cream’ – the world famous Hashish from the foothills of the Himalaya’s. He had been there for 7 days and may well have been sitting in that same position staring.

19th of March

We took a state bus to Dharamasala – home of Tibetans in exile. Once again beautiful views of Himalayan valleys were spoilt by the pressing fear that the bus driver was going to crash us to our death, attempting to over take a car overtaking a car whilst going round a bend that had nothing but naked cliff face on the other side. At one point we had to replace a wheel that almost burst due to this mad driving. After 7 hours and 1 wheel replacement we arrived in Dharamsala. We stayed at a comfortable hostel in the centre of what’s essentially a Tibetan town. In the evening we ate Thukpa – a noodle soup served hot and salty with lots of vegetables. The town was interesting and the food delicious.

20th of March

In the morning Olive got chatting to a charming 80 year old from America. She described Dharmsala as being like ‘Samsara’ (Buddhist Hell). On the topic of politics I called for a resurgent New Left movement while she claimed that the environment should be the issue that led to global unity and political direction. Giving her Lizzie Farrell’s Instagram we moved onto the Tibetan monastery of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile museum.

For the Chinese the Dalai Lama is akin to Ai Wei Wei bringing attention towards the human rights abuses of the Chinese. He plays the role that Marx’s gravestone did in the cold war – a cultural monument symbolising the beneficial freedoms of liberalism in opposition to totalitarian states. The museum tells the narrative of the Maoist annexation and domination of the Tibetans, removing their language and imprisoning dissidents leading the Dalai Lama to be smuggled out of the country in the disguise of a soldier and then given refuge

by Nehru. Oppression remains violent leading many young Tibetan dissidents to combust themselves in protest to Chinese rule. Dharmsala smells like a town of refuge although nothing like a refugee town. Tibetans celebrate their culture whilst proudly asserting the will to ‘FREE TIBET’. If anywhere was likely to be under Chinese surveillance it was Dharmsala. At the moment the Chinese are winning a battle of attrition. Their economy is rising and the Dalai Lama is getting old.

21st of March

We walked to a waterfall waiting for an evening bus to Rishikesh. On the way we ran into, or more accurately were recognised, by a Canadian lady from Goan corner. Like Gigi she too had paid for her travels through working on a Californian weed farm. It is amazing how a substance can attract such a large group of people and in effect characterise someone’s personality.

That evening we took a night bus to Rishikesh.

22nd of March

Rishikesh is a world centre for Yoga and interestingly for me the site of the Ashram where the Beatles went and penned a host of songs. Under the spell of exhaustion we took an impromptu nap. After, I had a ‘yoga bunny breakfast’ and walked to the Beatles Ashram. We walked along 2 kilometers of Yoga Ashram’s, shops and ‘POPCORN’ stalls that faced onto the famous Ganga river. At the end of this stretch lay the abandoned Beatles Ashram, now no more than a tourist site. The Ashram was like walking through a 1960’s graveyard. Transcendental meditation huts built in the 1970’s after the influx of customers following the Beatles were dotted around overgrown forestry. They were shaped like small motorways. The downstairs selection offered room to sleep while a stair case spiralled up to a platform were people could meditate in earshot of the Ganga. The observatory’s were decorated with shells and looked both comfortable and glamorous, once satisfying the appetites of curious westerners. In the main building Beatles lyrics covered every wall. The Ashram had been the site where songs like ‘Across the Universe’, ‘Sexy Sadie’ and ‘I’m So Tired’ had been written. Of the fab four, Ringo lasted 10 days, Paul a month, Harrison and Lennon 6 weeks leaving after Mia Farrow accused the Maharishi yogi of coming onto her. Much of the 60’s imagination that in many ways carry’s places like Goa and Pushkar is a result of this experience. Walking through the Ashram felt like walking through my own mental landscape of 1960’s ideology; young, hopeful, naïve, beautiful and forgotten. Having visited many sites of religious pilgrimage the trip to the Ashram very much felt like my own. Thanks to the massive amounts of murals I knew I was not alone in this thought.

Walking home from the Ashram we found Lauryn and Angus for the third time. Angus could not contain his excitement continually repeating how weird the situation was and then suggesting there was a teleological cause for the meeting. We hadn’t seen them in a month and it was fun to compare experiences as well as talk about more existential ideas like meditation, the body and the culture of poverty in India. Angus’s evangelism was endearing as was his belief in conspiracies directing topics of conversation I could never have seriously with Olive. We had drinks and dinner with them and said our farewells, going to Nepal just a few days before them.

23rd of March

We took a local bus to Delhi. We got caught in gridlocked traffic. It was very frustrating once again. Eventually we arrived in Delhi staying 50 meters up the road at Delhi Backpackers.

24th of March

Outside our hostel was a man selling fresh Papaya. Two stalls down was a popular Masala tea stall where, we created our most enjoyable breakfast. Olive ordered half a Papaya while I got 2 Masala teas and 2 biscuits. From the bench of the Masala Tea stall we watched Delhi rise every morning. Workers carried brief cases and travellers carried backpacks at the beginning of their travels. After breakfast we got into a tuk tuk and managed to get an exit visa from a crumbling government building, the sort of which had one computer and hundreds of tourists or residents seeking permits for something or other. I feared we would be stuck here for days. I was wrong and it took just a morning. After we walked from India gate to the Parliamentary building marvelling at the buildings of Edward Lutyens the same man who had been the architect of buildings on Capitol hill. The Rajput was a symbol of British permanence in India, whose impermanence became evident 28 years after it was built, with Indian Independence.

That lunch we had a large Thali, one of our last, in one of those funny restaurants were waiters compete to shift their allocated food item. A carousel of dal and rice buckets awaits any man who dare sits in this restaurant, filling you with so much curry you forget what food tastes like and eating itself just a mechanical process.

That afternoon we went to Humayan tomb, a beautiful garden with the tombs of Mughals and their wives and concubines. The tombs here are a refuge of tranquility in a city of carnage. Mughal decadence is both large and subtle acting as the centrepiece of a garden rather than dominating it in the way palaces often do. Being Islamic, stone patterns are used to decorate rather than paintings or windows. Olive walked round with a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran = JUXTAPOSITION.

25th of March

We rose and repeated our morning routine eating Papaya drinking Masala and watching Delhi come to life. After we got in a tuk tuk and went to the Gandhi Smrti Museum; the house where Gandhi lived in the months before his assassination. The white bungalow in the centre of New Delhi presented the bedroom where Gandhi slept, studied and entertained soldiers of fortune. The house had an indigestible history of Mahatma Gandhi that I patiently attempted to digest. Guided by the ideas of Aldous Huxley and VS Naipaul I set about painting a picture of Gandhi. What was most striking was how talented the man was as a political actor, starving himself to combat the violence in Delhi and successfully quelling such violence. Naipaul argues that the costume and performance of Gandhi was something he had been modelling for years. His unorthodox yet effective methods of political change ranged from fasting, writing, going to jail and going on large marches. None of these things were new, one thinks to the suffragettes being force fed in protest of womens rights, or efforts like the Jarrow Crusade, however, Gandhi’s ability to embody and lead with such things are a testament to his immense character. Most interestingly mere comments of respect from former adversaries like Jan Smuts in South Africa. For lunch we went to the Mughal Muslim quarter to a restaurant called Karims that had been in Old Delhi for generations. Here, Olive broke her vegetarianism for the first time eating the world renowned Mutton Korma. I looked on in disgust whilst eating a Naan Bread with daal. The Jama Masjid, a stones throw from Karim’s, is the largest Mosque in India. The magnificent building is paved with amber coloured stone and is surrounded with corridors surrounded by pillars through which you can see through to three sides of Delhi. On one side facing Mecca are three magnificent domes the shape of tear drops. Inside men kneel to Mecca. In the centre is a large pool of water where people clean their hands before prayers. Reclaiming our sandals we walked through the Muslim quarter. Arabic signs and meat shops evoked the feeling of being in an entirely different country. The distance between Old and New Delhi were not just a few kilometres but rather a few continents, one demonstrating the British Imperial epoch the other demonstrating the Islamic imperial epoch. For this reason Delhi surpassed my expectations and was the perfect place to get lost in.

26th of March

Repeated the Morning breakfast routine and then went to the Nehru museum. This museum was a presentation of Nehru’s house in New Delhi. Round the corner from the Gandhi Smrti, Nehru’s house had a greater resemblance to the White House than Gandhi’s bungalow. The house preserved a bedroom, book collections and a study as well as displaying amusing pictures of Nehru’s life at Harrow and Cambridge. Like Gandhi, Nehru was horrendously shy until after Cambridge where he aims to become ‘a man about town’, something he describes as an empty headed person spending too much money in London. Where Gandhi was India’s lion, Nehru appeared to be the fox, acting like a playboy English gentleman rather than an Indian prophet. Nevertheless Nehru was not without his prophetic moments – offering the infamous Midnight of Indian independence.

That afternoon we got a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. An Indian man sitting with us on the train rold Olive that she looked like Movie star. The man then asked us for dinner and then to stay at his house. When asked why I didn’t want to go with him I replied saying ‘you could be the Queen of England and I wouldn’t want to eat with you’.

28th of March

The Taj Mahal was voted the greatest wonder in the world a few years ago. This made the Taj Mahal more respected than buildings like the Acropolis and the Colosseum, however, there was a catch – the billion people in India had got behind the vote thus directing the pace of support for the Taj. Instead of visiting the Taj we went to the moon garden opposite for Sunrise. Once again the Taj exhibited a simplistic beauty of Mughal architecture. We stood staring as unspoilt blue skies presented the beauty of the large marble colour and tear drop dome engraved with patterns and Arabic. Afterwards we visited the precursor to the Taj nick named ‘the baby taj’. Olive called this house her favourite building in India. The tombs were much smaller and the inside contained flowers painted on walls with marble sequence patterns that allow you to just slide your feet along the floor.

Death in Mughal society seemed something of far greater celebration than in the west, where funeral monuments are generally built into religious grounds like Westminster Abbey or Church graveyards. Instead a life was glorified in its death, some examples arguably more akin to the idol worship found in the presentation of Mao or Lenin’s body.

That evening our train was delayed by 4 hours so we travelled passenger class back to Delhi, sitting on what was usually a fold out bed.

29th of March

As it was Easter Sunday everything in New Delhi was closed due to a religious holiday. To celebrate the resurrection of Christ we returned to the Muslim quarter going on a long walk through the centre of old Delhi. Along the way we found a centuries old Mosque where Olive bought a delicious Saffron and Almond lassi. Walking through the Mosque we entered the Delhi spice market. One tunnel led everyone walking and working through it to stalls selling chili powder and cinnamon. It seemed that even the shopkeepers bodies were not immune to the sneezing, although they were probably immune to the irritation of sneezing which is not in itself a negative thing. Later we passed the fabric section, the sweets section and the metal works. It was as if walking through the market streets of Old Delhi was like strolling through the museum of India, selling all the smells, sounds and tastes that are in the countries ingredients. Like a Museum each section is like a different gallery displaying items of different quality and character. Unlike a gallery the dirty, land and busy streets removed sterilised comforts of observation instead provoking all your senses into action. Also in no gallery can a man be hit square in the head with a manual rickshaw. The gallery of Old Delhi was the perfect finale to two months in one of the world’s weirdest countries. Travelling around 20 different destinations, eating at hundreds of different restaurants and meeting loads of different people meant we had discovered India in a way that I had never explored any other country. Colonialism and culture were the discourses that stimulated my greatest interest, as India has been a battleground for competing Empire’s, from more traditional epochs like the British and the Mughal to the countercultural hangouts and Tibetan refugee towns. All of these things can be found in the centre of Delhi, thus making Delhi one of my favourite cities in the world.

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