My Dassera break this year did not start smoothly. I had planned to fly to Pondicherry and do a day’s diving and then some sightseeing. Unfortunately, less than a week before I was due to travel AirIndia (the national carrier) decided to stop running that particular route. After a couple of day’s trying to figure out the best option I decided to book myself a bed on an overnight sleeper bus.

The added stress to this was that instead of leaving at 10am on Tuesday to catch the flight, I had to be on the bus at 11:15 on Monday night. This was immediately after a school trip to see Hamlet performed by The Globe Theatre. They were taking part in a two year long tour that would take Shakespeare’s longest play to every country in the world. The play was excellent and gave a real sense of Shakespeare as it would have been performed in Shakespeare’s day.

Straight after the play I went to the bus stop (by school bus and then rickshaw) and found my bed – possibly the narrowest bed I have ever slept in and only slightly more comfortable than a seat on an aeroplane.

The next morning I woke up in Pondicherry and checked into the hotel at 7am. After a good breakfast and a long shower I started my sightseeing tour of Pondicherry. I got a rickshaw into the town centre and started by visiting the dive centre to sort out kit and complete all the paperwork prior to my dives the next day. From there I started walking through the French quarter of Pondicherry (due to being part of French India up until 1954 there is still a very French feels to the city).

The second day in Pondicherry started early as I had to be at the dive centre for 6:30am. After breakfast at the centre, we set off along roads that kept getting narrower and bumpier. Eventually we reached the boat and loaded up. The first dive site of the day was called Temple Reef (after Temple Dive Centre who had built the reef, and who I was diving with). The second site was a very gentle and relatively shallow site but was teeming with life.

That afternoon I looked up a bike hire company in Pondicherry, having decided that after hiring a moped in Hampi a couple of years ago it would be a good idea to do it again in Pondicherry. I took a rickshaw to the hire shop and 20 minutes later, at a cost of ¬£3 a day, I had hired a moped for the next three days. It wasn’t long after leaving the hire shop that I recognised the difference between riding a moped on a long, wide and very clear open country road and trying to balance on a two wheeled death machine in a busy city with cars, rickshaws, buses and more bikes than you can imagine taking no heed of the rules of the road!

I just about made it back to the hotel in one piece and retired quickly to the bar for a few Kingfishers.

The next morning I decided to take a tentative ride down the road tosee how I got on. 15km later I found myself at Auroville. Auroville is a model township based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. At the heart of Auroville is the Matrimandir which is a meditation zone for those who are allowed access, mostly those from the 2,400 residents of Auroville. On the way home I stopped off at Serenity Beach and realised that it wasn’t the holiday maker’s sunbathing beach that I thought it was but rather a fisherman’s beach.

On the last day of my trip I had a full day to finish seeing the sights of Pondicherry. I started with a very French breakfast of pastries and coffee at a cafe and then took a tour of the French quarter, including a couple of cathedrals and basillicas that I hadn’t yet visited.

For lunch I discovered a tiny little French restaurant hidden on the first floor of a house in a residential street, called Opus 8. The watermelon and mint frappe and the warm goat’s cheese salad along really could have put me somewhere in France!

Having returned my moped I went back to the French quarter for a few drinks and to while away the afternoon and evening before finding my sleeper bus to return to Bangalore. The journey home was, thankfully, uneventful until I got off the bus at my stop in Bangalore at 4:30am. The bus drove off immediately with my suitcase still in the luggage compartment! This led to me running down the road, which was surprisingly busy given the early hour, before jumping into a still moving rickshaw and finally getting the opportunity to shout ‘Follow that bus!’ After a five minute chase we caught the bus up and persuaded it to stop so that I could reclaim my suitcase.





At the end of August the Keralan members of staff invited us all to join them on a Sunday morning to celebrate Onam. Onam is the harvest festival in Kerala and also celebrates the annual return from the underworld of the mythical King Mahabali. It is celebrated by laying carpets of flowers, traditional dances and sumptuous feasts.

A couple of weeks later we had one of our many four day weeks, this time to celebrate Ganesh Chaturti. The Sunday after we were on our way to brunch and had to stop at the side of the road to allow a procession to come down the road. I particularly like the way they move the electricity lines at about 55 seconds into the video!

The third festival I was invited to be part of was a wedding. The invitation came from one of the cleaning staff at school and a small group of us made our way to the local village for the reception (which takes place the day before the actual wedding ceremony.)

The reception started by joining a queue to congratulate the bride and groom and to give a gift of money. After posing for photos with the happy couple, we were invited downstairs for a meal.

The meal, which was very simple but tasted great was served from buckets and onto banana leaves. The moment we had finished eating the whole table cloth was gathered up and thrown away so that the settings could be relaid ready for the next group of dinners.

The final festival this term was to celebrate Dassera. The school held a Dandiya on the Sunday evening, which is essentially a group dance with two circles that rotate whilst the particiants hit sticks together (strangely like Morris dancing!) It seemed easy enough to start with until I found that everybody had their own version of the dance that was either 6, 8 or 9 beats!



With a rare long weekend off, we booked a trip to Coorg – one of the main coffee producing areas in South India. As it was a national holiday and many people were heading away, we were unable to hire a self-drive car for the weekend so had to book a car with a driver. He arrived an hour later than expected and we set out on the 5 hour drive. The traffic was unbelievable and it tooks us a full 9 hours to drive the 260km to Coorg.

Once there, however, we quickly forgot the nightmare drive and relaxed into the hotel’s wooden cabins in the middle of the coffee plantation.

The next morning, we were taken to Madikeri (a nearby town) and had a walk around the town’s castle and look-out point before returning to the hotel for a swim and dinner.

On the Sunday we had a guided tour of the coffee plantation before we started our journey home and discovered that the traffic was every bit as bad as it had been on the way to Coorg. We made the best of it and stopped at the Buddhist Golden Temple, part of the Nambroling monastry.

Grade 11 trip to Wayanad, Kerala

It was a weekend off and I had been invited to chaperone the Grade 11 trip to Wayanad in the state of Kerala.

We set off at 5:30am by bus and settled in for, what I had been told would be, a 7 hour journey. We stopped for breakfast enroute and then later for a toilet stop, then again at the Keralan border; combined with the very strict speed limits the journey actually took us 10 hours!

On reaching the hotel we settled in to our rooms and the students spent the afternoon relaxing in the games room and around the resort.

The next morning, after breakfast, we set off again. This time to Kuruva; an island in the middle of the Kabini River and an wildlife reserve. We crossed the river on a wooden raft that was pulled across by overhead ropes and then took a thrity minute walk to the other side of the river where we took a break.

The rest of the day was spent back in the resort around the pool and in the games room giving the students (who were mostly boarders) and the staff a much needed break. I even found time to sneak to the resort spa for an ayurvedic massage!

Sri Lanka – again!!

For the short February mid-term break I took up the offer from Jon (who I visited the first time I went to Sri Lanka) to make a return trip. Following a long and busy 7 weeks of term I was looking forward to a restful break.

Unfortunately it didn’t start well with the school bus taking 3 and a half hours instead of the normal one and a half, due to a very slow driver (oddly for India) who took the strangest route I’ve seen. Fortunately due to the departure times of the school buses I still made it to the airport in plenty of time.

When I got to Jon and Varuni’s house just outside Colombo there was a very welcome sight waiting for me.

The next morning we made a relatively early start to catch the train from Colombo to the south of the island. I was starting to feel that travel on this trip was cursed, when there was a station announcement that the train was delayed by 40 minutes. Boarding the train, when it finally arrived, was a feat in itself that required a considerable amount of pushing and shoving along with the generous use of elbows!! Once on board it was a tightly packed ride for the first hour until a couple of seats came free.

We were heading to a small village called Seenigama that had been heavily affected by the 2004 tsunami. In the wake of this Kushil Gunasekera set up the Foundation of Goodness, a charity that caries out a wide range of initiatives that Jon now volunteers at on a regular basis – http://www.unconditionalcompassion.org/indexc.php

We took a walk through the village and saw the temple (on a raised platform) where around 750 people from the village took shelter as the tsunami approached, and survived. At the MCC Seenigama (sponsored by Marylebone Cricket Club) and saw some of the children from the village who had turned up early for their practice session as well as the excellent facilities. On the sea front we saw the dive centre that is part of the Foundation of Goodness, running PADI courses for tourists as another way of raising money for the charity.

That evening we took a rickshaw to the next town, Hikkaduwa, for a couple of beers watching the sunset before heading to the Red Lobster for a fish dinner.

The next morning, after a swim at the beach, we caught another train to Galle and then on to Weligama to pick up some beers (as the is no off-licence in the village we were going to.) At the bottle shop we were chatting to the owner who asked the usual questions about who we were, where we were from, and then surprised me by telling me that he had lived in Gillingham (just down the road from my home town) for three years!

We stayed in a small quest house for the night and met up with some of the people Jon has met in his visits to Mirissa. We spent the afternoon at Wadiya Beach Bar and went back there for the fresh fish barbeque in the evening.

The next morning we took a walk along the beach and went for breakfast at Dewmini Roti Shop. This was a small scale place in the back garden of the owner’s house. It had previously been a hut on the beachfront but had to be moved after local hotels put pressure on the owner. She closed down and reopened in her back garden, serving what are often recommended as the best rotis in Sri Lanka.

Towards the end of a very relaxing week Jon and I visited Apegama, a re-creation of a traditional Sri Lankan village along with a small deer park and local crafts stalls.

On my last morning in Sri Lanka, Jon and I went to their local temple. It was a simple place with no frills, and Jon and I spent some time walking around and lighting oil lamps and incense.

Views from Jon and Varuni’s balcony:



Mysore – Feb 2015

After 5 weeks of work and only one day off (including a 3 day weekend where I worked every day) we finally had a whole two days off. To celebrate a group of us went to Mysore.

We collected the hire car on Thursday evening and as soon as we could get away from school on Friday afternoon four of us hit the road – all with very different plans of what to do when we got there. The 4 hour drive started leisurely enough on the village route out of Bangalore and towards NICE Road, coming off at the Mysore Road junction it wasn’t long before we stopped at a roadside restaurant for dinner.

The journey after dinner was somewhat more nerve-wracking – mainly due to the fact it was dark by then and a lot of the cars, trucks and lorries try to save their battery life by not bothering with unneccassary things like headlamps. This combined with police barriers creating chicanes as well as speed humps along the dual carriageway all looming up at us out of the dark led to a few frightening moments!!

All was forgotten as we arrived at the hotel – the outside looked impressive even at night. The Lalitha Mahal Palace was built in 1921 by the Maharaja of Mysore for a visit by the then Viceroy of India and subsequently was used for all visiting European guests. It is the second largest palace in Mysore, after the Maharaja’s own palace.

Having checked in and been taken to our rooms, we decided that the next obvious port of call was the hotel bar for a few G&Ts before bed.

The next morning, after breakfast on the terrace, James and Corinne went sight seeing around Mysore. Meanwhile Helen and I spent the day lying by the pool, swimming to cool off and drinking. This pretty much summed up the rest of the day and most of the next!

On the second morning we took a walk around the hotel before returning to our posts at the pool, where we spent the rest of the morning before returning to Bangalore – relaxed, refreshed and ready for another week at work.

Sri Lanka (the second time)

With another full weekend off work the question arose of where to go. Thanks to a friend of a colleague (who had just qualified as a PADI Instructor, who was now living in Sri Lanka,) I decided to take a trip with Helen (my colleague) to visit her friend (Nic.)

An easy evening’s flight and pre-booked taxi ride took us to Unawatuna on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Having dropped our bags in our room we headed out for a drink, at the bar next door to our hotel. Early the next morning we were greeted by this as the view from our hotel room.

After a quick breakfast we walked to the dive centre, which turned out to be the same place as the bar from the previous evening. Leaving Helen on the beach, our first dive of the day was Rangoon Wreck a very nice wreck teeming with wildlife and home to a large Moray. After the return boat trip and a few cups of tea we set out on the boat for the second dive of the day to Reef Wreck (not actually a wreck!) It was a long shallowish dive over a rocky sea bed covered in coral and also crowded with life.

Two good dives later we changed and set off for lunch on the beach at The Bludge Corner where we had fantastic beef burgers. The only downside was that it was a Poya day. This is a monthly religious festival for Buddhists that celebrates the full moon, the day is marked by visiting the temple for religious observances and also by not serving any alcohol! Anywhere!!

Nonetheless we enjoyed a very pleasant fruit juice with our burgers before getting a tuk-tuk in to Galle, the neighbouring town. In Galle we went shopping for a fan (for Nic’s apartment) and then made our way to the fort for a walk along the town walls. Despite our efforts every bar and restaurant that we visited was very devout and therefore unable to sell as any alcohol. Not only would they not sell it to us but neither would they: give us free beers in return for a generous donation or accidentally leave the beer fridge open and turn their backs.

Having returned to the hotel to get changed, we set off to find somewhere for dinner. A few hundred yards along the road from the hotel Helen spotted a hotel that looked like an option. They were offering a fish barbeque that evening and we quickly decided to stay. Our decision to stay proved to be very much the right one, when I glanced at a table on the other side of the restaurant and saw, against all expectations, two bottles of beer! I pointed them out to Nic and Helen at the same time as calling the waiter over. He returned quickly with three large bottles of beer and we began to relax properly. After dinner, and accompanied by more beers, Helen began practising a few basic dive skills – on dry land, with no kit. When she mentioned that she wanted to take her Open Water course I willingly offered the cert to Nic!

The next morning we went for a late breakfast (with cocktails) then went for lunch and drinks at The Bludge Corner.


For the Dasara break we decided to go to the Punjab and in particular focus our trip on Amritsar, although we stayed in Tarn Taran nearby.

On our first evening there we walked to the local Gudwara – which has the largest Sarovar (water pond) in the world. The temple itself was very busy but the walk around the pond was very peaceful, despite being joined by a group asking who we were, where we were from and why we were visiting Tarn Taran.

The next¬† morning we headed into Amritsar with our hosts who knew some people at the Golden Temple. Fortunately this meant that we could skip the incredibly long cue and enter via the exit. The Golden Temple, despite being one of the holiest places in the Sikh religion, proved to be an ‘interesting’ place. Once we had made our way inside, we were greeted by the sight of a holy man pushing paper money offerings through a grill in the floor using a wide flat blade. There was something of a scrum to get anywhere near the front of the crowd.

Once we had made our way through the actual temple we took a walk around the Sarovar which, like the one in Tarn Tarun allowed bathing for ritual cleansing. This involved men bathing in their underwear and women being afforded the privacy of bathing chambers.

Following our walk around the temple we went for lunch in the Langar hall, which provides lunch for up to 10,000 people per day.

That afternoon we went to the Wagah Border but unfortunately, due to the huge crowds, we were unable to get within a couple of kilometers. We turned back and made our way home. On the way home we passed the beginnings of the celebrations for Dassara. The huge huge figures would later be set alight.

The next morning we went into Jallianwala Bagh, the scene of one of the lowest moments in the history of the British Empire. On 13th April 1919 a huge group of non violent protestors met in the gardens of Jallianwala Bagh in response to recent events. British soldiers entered the area at the upper end of the gardens and opened fire indiscriminately. Official figures put the death toll at around 380 while others put it at just over 1,000.

Walking around the gardens, that have been preserved as a memorial, was very moving. Bullet holes were still visible in the walls and the Matyrs’ Well (a well into which 120 people threw themselves to avoid being shot) was particularly poignant as a curfew was enforced after dark meaning that no survivors could be helped.

That evening we made another attempt to visit the Wagah Border between India and Pakistan. I have honestly never known anything like it. The crowd that pushed towards the border for the daily flag lowering ceremony was immense and we spent a very long time in the middle of it shuffeling forwards to the security checks. We eventually came to sign indicating a route for foreign visitors and managed to make our way past the crowd to an area of reserved seating.

When we arrived we saw the ‘warm-up act’ of children running with the Indian flag towards the border and back again. As the ceremony approached the excitement from the crowd built as they were led in patriotic chants – equivalent chants could be heard on the other side of the border from the Pakistan side. We had been joined by a group of Indian nuns who were chanting louder and more passionately than most! The ceremony itself is almost indescribable. Soldiers in full dress uniform from both sides of the border marching at double speed, stamping, shouting and a lot of posturing combined with loud drumming and the constant shouts and chants of thousands of spectators created an amazing atmosphere. And this happens every single evening throughout the year.

The whole ceremony was one of highly choreographed, flamboyant military precision with both countries working closely together to present it. However, it must be remembered that there is still a lot of animosity between the two countries. If you look to the left of hoto 10 above you can see two heavily armed soldiers standing face to face. These did not move for the whole of the ceremony.

Sri Lanka

After 7 weeks of work with only one day off, it was finally time for my first trip of the new school year.

I had decided to visit Sri Lanka (only an hour and a half flight from Bangalore) to visit a collegue from TISB who had moved there at the beginning of this year. Getting out of India was harder than expected though, mainly because myself and my friend had forgotten our Resident Permits which are required to get back into the country (despite having employment visas in our passports.) This caused a problem at check-in and then again at passport control. Finally on the plane we realised that we had also forgotten to bring the contact details of our friend in Sri Lanka but didn’t worry too much because we would be able to get wifi at Colombo airport after we landed. It took us an hour to get through immigration and collect our bags before we were outside and ready to make contact. By the way, for anyone travelling through Columbo airport – they don’t have wifi!!

Whilst fending off well meaning taxi drivers a very kind lady asked if we were alright – we decided to take a chance and asked if she had a smart phone we could borrow, suprisingly she said yes to both! Now we knew his number and that we were to meet at a McDonalds near to his house. Unfortunately neither of us had a phone that worked outside of India but we jumped into the nearest taxi anyway and set off. The driver lent us his phone and we made the call, unfortunately there was no answer. During the hour’s drive we called 7 or 8 times all with no reply. At the McDonalds we sat down to enjoy an actual McDonalds BEEFburger and asked the manager if we could use a phone and finally made contact. Twenty minutes later (and ten minutes after they had closed but allowed us to stay inside and wait) Jon arrived in a tuktuk to collect us. We fell into bed that night ready to start exploring Colombo in the morning.

The next morning we took a tuktuk to a market that had recently been developed and was next to an area of parkland which was a very popular area to walk around.

From there we went to a local Buddhist temple. It was a truely peaceful place despite the number of people. We walked around the open area before going into the temple proper where a monk called us to one side and gave a blessing whilst tying a prayer string around our wrists. Afterwards we went outside to light a lamp and were met by a wall of flame. The small clay pots, which had a wick placed in them and were filled with coconut oil were arranged on metal racks and there must have been hundreds of them.

Having left the temple we took another tuktuk into the business centre of Columbo and too a walk along the sea front. We decided to stop at the Gall Face Hotel, one of the colonial hotel in Sri Lanka, for a quick drink.

After lunch, at a local restaurant, consisting of rice and curry (but in reality a lot more than it sounds) we made our way back home to enjoy a few drinks on the balcony before dinner and a few more after dinner. The view from the balcony was amazing – coconut trees and parrots within throwing distance.

The next morning we went out for breakfast and had a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of string hoppers (a kind of rice noodle pancake) and chickpea curry. After breakfast we went to the temple where Jon had married his wife. It was a smaller temple than yesterday’s but equally beautiful and peaceful.

On a side note: when we returned to India, neither of us were asked to show our Resident Permits, the cause of so much trouble on the way out of the country!!


Indian Premier League

On 13th May I was invited to go to an IPL match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Delhi Daredevils at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

We were picked up at school and driven into Bangalore for dinner before making our way to the stadium. The first problem of the evening happened as we entered and found out that cameras were not allowed. Fortunately, despite the quick frisk at the gate, the camera in my pocket was not discovered. Nor was it noticed at the next two checkpoints. At the fourth, however, the guard asked me to empty my pockets, but again fortune was on my side as the senior guard told him to ignore it!

Our seats were in the fans’ terrace and came complete with free food and drinks tokens. We decided to skip the food and made our way straight to the bar for a drink before the game started.

Having taken our seats – and claimed our flags and clappers – we settled in to wait for the rain to pass – play was delayed by an hour.

Once the game started I discovered an entirely different way of watching cricket to anything that I have been used to. Instead of polite applause and the occasional Mexican wave, the game was accompanied by a an on-going disco set, ecstatic cheering at every wicket and 6 and more cheering every time a trumpet blast was played.

Delhi Daredevils won the toss and opted to field first. The Royal Challengers made a slow start but finally Yuvraj Singh hit 9 sixes in 2 overs to take the score to 186 for 4.

Delhi Daredevils went on to start well but only managed 170 runs.