Day 1 in India – The Elephant Wanderings

Note – I wrote this one early on in the trip whilst still in India, and it’s quite long. It’s unlikely that future days will be this long! Click on the link if you want to understand the Elephant Wanderings part of the title.

Day 1 Heathrow to Delhi,  then to Kalka

The flight from Heathrow to Delhi went just like many international flights do. The quirks of this particular flight included: H had a video screen who’s touchscreen settings were about an inch left of those shown on screen,  and in-arm remote that didn’t work. It’s a good thing she wasn’t bothered about using it much!

I managed to watch the very cheesy promotional videos for a few Indian towns, where absolutely everything about them, if the videos are to be believed, is magical,  colourful, mystical, enchanting and just generally amazing. In all honesty they didn’t really tell me anything, but whiled away a couple of hours being amused by the language used.

I managed to nap, on and off for much of the night after this, before accepting that no more sleep was forthcoming, and watched the Maleficent movie available – not too bad a film, but a little heavy for a Disney movie?

Upon arrival in Delhi, after my customs official finally accepted I didn’t have a hotel, and was headed to Shimla (for some reason Kalka seemed an unknown entity), wrote on my arrivals form “local hotel Shimla” and waved me through with and air of exasperation.

Our plan to take the metro into town was a good one, 100 rupees for an eerily quiet and very clean station and efficient train meant a smooth arrival into Delhi. And then the fun began.

You see we’d both read the section in the guidebook that mentioned that the tourist ticket booth was on the 1st floor of New Delhi station, and that touts would try and convince us otherwise.
So we confidently walked across the road from the metro to the station building visible opposite, happily ignoring the taxi touts and anyone else attempting to get in our way.
It was the x-ray machines and barriers before the staircases that threw us, caused us to hesitate and obviously marked us out as vulnerable tourists. A gentleman, in a friendly manner asked if we needed help, and subsequently told us we needed a ticket to pass, and that tourist tickets can be bought in town. Not wanting to cause a scene and appear rude (how very British of us), we scurried away (though not to town).

Between us, we realised these chaps were not ‘officials’ and tickets were not actually being asked for. So after a bit of “check yourselves girls” type chat, we strolled on through and found the tourist ticket office at the other end of the station, i.e. over the other side of a plethora of train tracks, visibly signposted on this side with warnings about touts above their heads.

It was at this point we both realised something – that we’d both been very silly. Neither of us had bought the travellers cheques or US Dollars at Heathrow as we planned! So we had 10,000 Rupees each that we had been limited to drawing out at the Delhi airport ATM’s, about 20 pounds sterling, and a Aus$100 note that my work colleagues had given me as a leaving gift. This was not going to buy us the 90 day rail pass we had planned!

So whilst I got a little peeved at the stupidity of this situation we had put ourselves in, H came up with the idea of finding an internet café to locate a reputable money exchange office.

You see, the actions of the touts and supposed ‘guards’ and officials in the area, by this time (yes I have missed out some things here, you don’t need that much detail) had led me to a complete feeling of distrust, so we couldn’t just get in a taxi or rickshaw and ask them to take us to one. This feeling of trust did not help my frame of mind (see my blogging debate post for more on that).

Anyway, money obtained, and back to the ticket office, we eventually after much paper pushing had tickets for today, tomorrow, and the 90 day pass to start after our retreat. And with half an hour to spare, we got some drinks before getting on the Express (Shatabdi) train to Kalka.

Whilst I turned into a nodding dog, H chatted to her neighbour who apparently was not overly happy (in a considerate way) about us having no booked hotel. Whilst she patiently listened to his advice and reviewed his mobile app findings, once he left the train we agreed we would stick to Plan A – wander into town until we found a hotel we liked the look of, or recognised a name from the guide book (which was back at Lincoln library).

Thankfully, Kalka is small. Getting off the train, there was very little tout/taxi offers, and we were free to wander up what looked like the one road (what with it the being the only light source around) of town. Spotting what looked like an ok hotel, we dutifully asked to check the room before we agreed on a price and I completed the relevant paper forms. I fully accept that every place we stay will ask us to complete and sign a large journal about who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going to and have a photocopy of my passport and visa taken. No identity security concerns here then!

Someone, if they wanted to, could literally track us across India. Though it would take a VERY long time – what with everything being in what I can only describe as A3 size paper accounting ledgers.

So whilst trying/difficult, I’m classing our first day as a win. We’ve arrived, not been scammed, booked trains and obtained rail passes, travelled a fair distance and found a suitable hotel!

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Day 2 of The first 101 days in Oz

Day 2 saw us venture into town.

First port of call was to get on a bus. Positives to note here – the driver was friendly and smiley. The bus didn’t set off until all new passengers were seated (wouldn’t want anyone stumbling). And when people got off the bus (a single height coach length vehicle, with doors at the front next to the driver, and about half way down the bus), they yelled thanks with a wave to the driver on the way, no matter which door they exited from!
There are also dedicated bus-ways – roads built specifically for the use of buses only. Makes for a speedy trip.

Now being in a new city, the first thing I’m looking for…where’s my next meal coming from? And Brisbane doesn’t disappoint on this front. There is food available everywhere I look it seems. We got off the bus at a station underneath a shopping centre, which has a food court, as does the next centre, and the next!
So my first Brisbane lunch: a delightful little selection from an outlet called FantAsia.

For someone who likes variety, how could I resist this taster pack?
For someone who likes variety, how could I resist this taster pack?

I am genuinely quite excited by the variety of food available here, and it’s day 2!

Next it was on to the things on the bureaucracy list:

  • Registering for Medicare – nice and easily done (despite us forgetting to NOT go through the smart gate at the airport, and therefore having no human placed stamp in our passport showing we’d entered the country two days ago, as advised to us many months ago) at the central government service centre (a centralised service, that as you guessed it is a one-stop shop for many government based services – now also producing an online mygov service to match).
  • Going to the bank to ID ourselves and get access to our already opened Australian bank account, get given our account card to be able to use ATM’s (must remember to only use certain ones to avoid charges though) and most importantly choose the colour of the debit card we want!
  • Buy a Go Card, a smartcard that can be used on all public transport services here, saving you money on the cash rate fares, and meaning you don’t have to worry about carrying change for the bus.
Brisbane City Hall from King George Square.
Brisbane City Hall from King George Square.

Something I’ve noticed so far too…..I haven’t been called “Sir” yet….by anyone! Now that’s a change from the last few months!

Back at the apartment, chilling out after dinner (mmmmm fresh salad that I didn’t have to wonder nervously how it might have been prepared!), I got my first scare from a big spider (yep, I’m scared of spiders), which having gone running to our kind hosts to just check what type it is and whether I should be worried, was thankfully informed….it’s just a huntsman, used to play with those as a kid. (Insert shudder here!)

I’ll leave you with that thought!

Those front legs give the game away that this is a harmless huntsman apparently. Eeek!
Those front legs give the game away that this is a harmless huntsman apparently. Eeek!

Day 1 of The first 101 days in Oz

Having landed late last night, and being awake for quite some time in the middle of the night, unsurprisingly a nice long lie in occured today. 

Having stuck the laundry on (not actually giving it to someone else in a carrier bag and hoping it came back in a reasonable condition) …..using an actual washing machine…..located in the place we were actually staying…and under our control….. it was time to delight in the use of a shower for which I could control the temperature and pressure, and actually feel like I’ve thoroughly cleaned myself the first time in a long time.

Ok, so Brisbane has just started a very hot and humid heatwave, so I’m not gonna stay like that for long……but then I could have another later!

Just as I think about walking round to the local shop for the basics, we get whisked off to the local supermarket (thanks to a lift from our kind hosts in their air conditioned car), where we go a bit mad for fresh fruit, vegetables (I’ve been craving roast vegetables for quite some time now), and various familiar looking delights and I only realise when heading towards the checkout that I have less than $100 cash in my pocket and my credit card is still in the security pouch it has lived in for the last 4 months, which I had relished that morning at not needing to put back around my waist! Kind hosts to the rescue, we headed back and literally filled the fridge.

Yep, that’s right, a fridge….ours to use as we wish…..in the place we were staying!

Next it was onto the first bit of bureaucracy of moving to a new country – telling the tax man I’m here, and letting him provide me with my unique reference to enable me to pay him in the future (aside, not sure why I stuck with the traditional man label here?), otherwise known as submitting my application for a tax file number. All quite easily done using an online system, and my number should be received in the post within the next couple of weeks…..that’s right……in the post…..to the place where we are staying!

Having picked up every tourist brochure under the sun at the airport (not an untypical habit of a traveller), I started to read through those,  and compiling a list of things I’d like to do……this has now formed the basis of my Brisbane based bucket list.

It seems I had then had enough of sitting, because I decided to go for a run. Yes, a run, in lycra, in the area I’m staying in, despite the heat and the hills. Because it’ll be ‘normal’ to randomly run here. But it is blooming hot…..and the hills are everywhere.  Short intervals it is then. But that’s alright…..I’ve got time to improve and get back to the running ……’cos I live here now!

Without realising the peril, our hosts had pointed out the nearest takeaway whilst out in the car earlier, and oh yeah, I do fancy an Aussie burger! So the vegetables stayed in the fridge for tonight, and that burger was exactly how I remember an Aussie burger to be….yum!

The Burger - with the lot
The Burger – with the lot

Skypeing with my Mum finished the day off nicely.

Oh and I did have that second shower ☺

The first 101 days in Oz

So, I recently migrated from the UK to Australia.

And on the way, I spent 101 days in India. Whilst there I took at least one photo every day, and posted it along with a really brief summary of what we’d got up to that day on a popular social media forum.

It seemed to prove a popular way for friends and family back in the UK to keep up to date with what we were doing, but also, a way for me to ensure I actively looked for an image that summed up the day. So before we landed in Oz, I decided I would do the same thing once here, at least for the first 101 days.

However, what I have found is some days I’ve taken a fair few photos, so thought: why not extend my brief daily project into blog posts? Don’t worry not every one will be long, but it just gives me the opportunity to pull together more thoughts and images if the day calls for it.

And yes, for those that know me, and have been following on the afore mentioned social media channel, you’ll know I have a bit of catching up to do!