Discovering ancient India

Our traveler found some peace on a Goa beach.
Our traveler found some peace on a Goa beach.

I leave Mumbai at the beginning of the afternoon. The city is a labyrinth, but I am lucky and after an hour and an half I am out of the peninsula and on my way south. The state of Goa, famous for its beach, lays 400 miles south of Mumbai.

It is very green as I drive south, thanks to the monsoon.
It is very green as I drive south, thanks to the monsoon.

The first two days of driving are difficult. There’s a lot of traffic the first day and I have to stop to sleep after covering only 110 miles. I stay on the parking lot of a restaurant where I had diner the previous night. The following day, I drive all I can but because of a combination of poor signage and a bad map, I cannot find the places I want to see and can only keep driving south missing my targets.

Early afternoon is usually hot…
Early afternoon is usually hot…

The map of India I got is supposed to be the best one available, but is filled with mistakes, omissions and road that don’t exist. I don’t have the maps of the country in my GPS either. It was the cases in most of the places, but in location like Africa – for example – there are not that many roads and you can’t really get lost. In India, there are a lot of roads everywhere, with no signs at the intersections. I figure that the best way to navigate is to ask people whenever possible.

... but monsoon means rain in late afternoon.
... but monsoon means rain in late afternoon.

Later, after leaving behind Maharashtra state, the situation improves a bit, and there are more signs. And in English this time.
Every evening, it is possible to see that the monsoon period is not totally finished. There are usually heavy rains, and one can see the muddy waters flowing down the high rivers.

A full river as I approach Goa.
A full river as I approach Goa.

The second night I am looking for a beach to camp. I am close to Panaji, the state capital of Goa. After turning around for what seems an eternity, I decide to stop for the night in Calangute. It is not a very charming place. It is one of these beaches accessible by cement steps with a waterfront crammed with restaurants and shops. At this point I feel a little bit pessimistic and begin to wonder where the marvelous beaches you always hear about are. F_town A typical town, once of many I cross as I drive south.
I strike a deal with a hotel and they let me sleep in their parking lot for US$2. It is still not the high season, and most places are empty except from local tourists wandering around on this Sunday night.

All the kids are wearing uniforms to go to school. As in many countries I visited.
All the kids are wearing uniforms to go to school. As in many countries I visited.

In the morning, I decide to continue south, and go pass Panaji, as the beaches in the south of the state have the reputation to be less developed and quieter. In the afternoon, I reach Agonda beach and find the paradise. I am able to park on the beach which reminds me of good times in Central America.

Back being a gipsy on the beach.
Back being a gipsy on the beach.

I am not alone there, as there’s another truck belonging to a Swiss family. Even better, as no mater where you are, you always feel safer when you are not alone. I stay there two days, watching the ballet of the fishermen incessantly going out and bringing back nets full of fish. I read and enjoy the perfect temperature of the sea.

Only me and the cows on the beach.
Only me and the cows on the beach.

At night, it is raining and there’s some wind. I wake up one night as the tent is folding on me. I can escape by the back door and stabilize the situation.
But I am ready to get some more miles behind, so after this short break, I am back on the road. This time I am going east. The next time I will see the sea, it will be the Bay of Bengal, and it will take a while.

Gate of one of the town on my way to Hampi.
Gate of one of the town on my way to Hampi.

Meanwhile I gain altitude as I reach the inland plateau, and after eight hours of driving I arrive in the ancient city of Hampi.
There, I ask the government hotel (KSTDC Mayura Bhuvaneshwari) to let me sleep on the parking lot. They agree for US$1 a night, but there’s no shower. I explain to them that French people don’t need any, and I go to sleep.

Elephant stables in Hampi.
Elephant stables in Hampi.

Or try too. India is very intense, and wherever you stop, you soon have a group of ten people asking questions, opening the doors of the vehicle, looking around. They can stay around for a long time and watch you have diner, read or wash your clothes. Late evening, I am finally able to go upstairs and go to sleep.

Scary encounter as I walk through Hampi.
Scary encounter as I walk through Hampi.
The Lotus Mahal.
The Lotus Mahal.

I wake up early morning as I have a long day in front of me. I decided to visit the large ruins by foot which is something like an eight-mile walk. It is hot and humid and the end of the visit is quite painful. But it is very impressive. You have to pay attention to snakes when walking around as they seem to be everywhere.

Virupaksha Temple.
Virupaksha Temple.

Hampi was once the capital of the huge Vijayanagar Empire, the center of the largest Hindu center in South India. The landscape is astonishing as well, with enormous boulders dotting the landscape as if a giant would have put them here as a game.

Vittala Temple.
Vittala Temple.

Sad to say, but I wish there would have been more time between my visit to Hampi and my visit of Persepolis. The latest have been so impressive, it is difficult to not draw a comparison.
At the end of the day, I am cooked, and waiting for sunburns to appear. The following day I will take the direction of Hyderabad on my way east toward New York City.

Farmers working the fields.
Farmers working the fields.

41 Replies to “Discovering ancient India”

  1. Nick, the beaches around Goa look amazing. I am sure it was great to be back on the beach, camping. When you got to Hampi, how close did you get to Virupaksha Temple? Were you able to walk through? I think you have some mountain pass coming up so take lots of pictures on your way east and have a great time.


  2. If you think in India you have a large audience wait for Bangladesh! There are no ghosts to hide from in their religion, They don’t go home at night!
    Dont forget Sihanoukville in Cambodia. Its worth a visit!
    When do you think you will be in Thailand?


  3. Nick, you sound tired. This last leg especially through Malaysia, Singapore, and especially Thailand (I lived there for 12 years some 25 years ago) is wonderful. Do rest up so you can take it all in. You are a champ! You will do it, I know!

    Head for Singapore!

    The best,


  4. don’t listen to the other comments Nick 😉

    You are now in India, so enjoy it, and don’t go worrying about other countries that have yet to come. You have plenty of time to worry when you get there. For now enjoy it. If you pass by Mysore, I would suggest it. If you need some place to stay and rest in Chennai, let met know. I have some insights and a good story for you. Google on sr. Rexline.

    Adventurous greetings,

  5. I love that picture of the cows on the beach! Cows and beach never seemed to go together before. Your pictures are fantastic!

    Thanks for sharing,

    Jo Bedford

  6. Nico,

    I agree with Coen, “carpe diem.”
    I thought it was funny when you explained that the french don’t need showers. It’s like saying that the english don’t need to brush their teeth. Back out of that comfort zone eh?
    I noticed in the picture camping on the beach you have a spare tire tied to your tailgate that is not on a rim. Are you equipped to mount a tire on a rim? That is no easy task!
    And remember, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, preferably Mike’s hard lemonade!
    Keep em spinning my friend.

  7. Hey Nick!

    I see you still have that tire! You should give it a name since it’s been with you for quite a while now. LOL I’m surprised you haven’t found someone to sell it to by now. You really are cheap…lol But I guess that is definitely helping you get around the world without spending a whole lot of cash to do it. I also liked the comment about French people. And the cows on the beach is pretty cool.

    I’m studying Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism right now in a Religions class I’m taking so it’s pretty cool to see some live pictures going along with what I’m reading about. Have you been to any places that have statues or that celebrate Mahatma Gandhi?

    Have fun traveling. Glad you’re on to some greener pastures.


  8. Hey Nick,
    Thanks for the snake info. It killed any desire I had to visit India. I hope you check your bed for them before you crawl in.

    I had always thought the cows were sacred in India. If they are, why don’t they feed them? Those poor cows working the fields are skin and bones.

    Have a great time. Can’t wait for your next update.


  9. glad to read your latest entry and know that you’re safe and sound. you really needed that little R & R on the beach before things got intense. i noticed the red dirt road in one of your pictures? clay?

    elephant stables, huh? only in India. 🙂


  10. great going. I was in hyderabad few weeks ago and regret missing the opportunity to meet you.

    if you do to go hyderabad, please do go to paradise hotel and eat their mutton biryani. it has been rated very highly and is very famous. it is also very easy on the stomach.

    good luck!

  11. I’m not surprised about the map mistakes. I encountered the same problem in China. Roads don’t exist or haven’t been built yet when the map says so! So unfortunately, GPS is the way to go.

  12. I was lovin’ it ’til you mentioned the snakes everywhere. No thank you. I live in rural Ohio and was surprised to see the “fields” the cows were working. Good to see you on the road, be safe.

  13. Hi Nick!

    Amazing and beautiful pictures! 🙂 Great descriptions too! Love it! Thanks! Keep pressing on and enjoy the journey! 🙂

  14. Enjoyed your latest update and always so glad to know you are safe and sound. You sound a bit tired – but I suppose that must be expected with the ardouous journey you have undertaken. Can’t wait for the next update.
    Sydna – from Pennsylvania

  15. Hello Nick:

    Your world travel experiences always have me on my feet imagining universal yin and yang. I am now imagining what you must be experiencing as you reflect on past and present. Leaving the desert landscape to the verdant hills and valleys of India must be a breath of fresh air for you. I look forward to viewing your next few months of photos and hearing all about the new experiences across Asia. I see that you mentioned New York in your last writing. Could it be that you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and becoming anxious to get home? You are beyond the half way mark of TWE, so give yourself permission to think more seriously about home. But, in the meantime, please take care of yourself and remain positive. You’re doing great and have my attention to the end.

    -joyMaria and Paul

  16. me again. i find myself thinking quite a bit about you and your travels and so i have a couple of mundane questions for you. what are the people’s houses like in India? what are they made of; are they two-story, etc. i have this pre-programmed image in my mind and thus far you’ve done an excellent job of rearranging my thinking about foreign places. also, i’m wondering what’s everyday life like for everyday people who live on the other side of the planet? the school children certainly look very middle class. not to sound weird or anything, but are most of your encounters with people (what we might call) middle class? additionally, what do you think about day after day as you’re driving for hours and hours through sunny skies and beating rain. i don’t remember your saying anything about listening to music or books. speaking of music, you really haven’t mentioned much about the different types of music you’ve encountered on your trip. personally speaking, i couldn’t live without music in my life, i’m wondering if you’ve taken an interest in any of the music in your travels.

    i know it’s been a long road (pun actually intended) and those of us who are riding along with you envy your adventurous spirit. you’ve done a EXCELLENT job so far.


  17. Hey Mindy,

    Thank God your desire to visit India was killed ! Apparently these snakes can gobble up a live human being in seconds like anaconda so u might have become a pulp inside 🙂

    Regarding the cows they look well fed to me…of course they were not fed genetically modified meat which enlarges their body and gives them mad cows disease..

    And your IQ seemed terrific …seeing your knowledge about the outside world…are you a member of mensa 🙂 🙂 ROTFL

  18. As the others stated, it’s always good to see your updates and how you are doing. You did have some interesting information once again and great pictures… so different than what we are use to here. I hope you answer Suzanne’s questions. What is your expected date to arrive back home and where?? Prayers are with you and you just don’t realize what a great trip we are all taking with you… Thanks for the ride. Hugs from home, Donna

  19. I saw a recommendation for Sinouukville in Cambodia. Don’t go!!! If you think you are an “attraction” in India, the beach kids in Cambodia will never ever leave you alone and it’s not a nice feeling to argue with a 5 year old. Instead take road to Kep – maybe you can cross Mekong bay to south Vietnam by boat? Travel safe!

  20. Hi Nick,

    Thanks for the great pictures and travel commentary as always! I was taking a quiz and got a question correct because I had read about the place in one of your posts. You are educating so many people with your expedition. My daughter will cross off visiting India after reading about the snakes though. What was the “scary encounter in Hampi” statue of, it looks like an alien. Was that typical art of the period? The picture of the cows on the beach was surprising, not something you would ever expect to see in the US, but looks like they chose a great spot.

    Stay Safe and enjoy your journey!


  21. To all intelligent commentators on snakes , my 2 cents:

    – India has a diverse geography, landscape and climate everywhere. What you see in one place is not what will be present everywhere. (True for all the countries of the world which are geographically large, and this was taught in 7th grade geography in school)
    – Nick may be able to elaborate in a better way, but to simplify the above statement ” The cows were on agonda beach of Goa, which was good for camping for Nick, that doesn’t mean Cows were on each and every beach of Goa popular with tourists” (Facts can be checked in Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, National Geographic and host of other travel sites) . The next point is “Snakes were seen by Nick in Hampi, not everywhere in India. He didn’t see snakes in Mumbai or Delhi” If you see a roach in a house in new jersey, does it mean every house in US has roaches ?
    – I think its funny because in childhood where I grew up in an industrial township of India which had people coming in from Germany , Russia and Iceland for business and meetings and they used to tell that how Indian image outside is stereotyped with Snake Charmers and Elephants and used to get awetruck seeing the industrial automation and cutting edge technology , and they simply would laugh at the ignorance. I thought with time and internet progress things would change, but reading the comments above, I truly feel that how simple things can be interpreted when seen through different eyes and somethings will never change 🙂
    Thanks Nick, as the learning from your blog, journey and comments are immense.

  22. Hey Dude,
    I apologize for being insensitive. I’m sure India is an amazing country.

  23. @Cat: I’m not sure if you read my comment a month or two ago (either way it’s been a while), but it’s basically impossible to drive into Vietnam. They allow foreign drivers, but not foreign vehicles (cars registered in a different country). Cambodia is doable and I’m pretty sure Laos is too, but Vietnam is definitely no go. China can be done but it’s so expensive, which is why Nick has avoided the “northern route” through Russia and south into China so far.

    Basically, his planned route of shipping from Malaysia or Indonesia (back to the US) is the cheapest way to go and more than likely set in stone at this point.

    If money wasn’t an object, we would’ve seen Nick driving through Europe and also plan to go to Australia too. 😉

  24. Dude,

    Why are you so condecsending? Do you actually think people aren’t going to go to India because somebody says they have snakes? Of course not. I think you are just angry at what outsiders think of India. If you don’t like the image, you can always try to change it. Right now you’re not doing a very good job.

    Also, I’m sure you’ve posted here before using a somewhat “real” username. Why not now? Just curious.



    Sorry for the misuse of your blog by myself and others but I don’t think it’s very polite for this guy to be making snide remarks about people here. Its a friendly blog and I know we all love checking to see updates every day. Forge on my friend!

  25. Nick,

    It’s good to see you get some good glimpse of ancient architecture in Hampi etc. Nick, send me an email if you need some help in Hyderabad. I can arrange a stay and probably some help going around the city to see the places.


  26. I agree with Dave, this guy dude or whoever he is, is trying to destroy the friendly culture of the blog, where people try to leave comments based on their image and thoughts. Condescending will not going to help and change image of a particular country. You think talking like this and leaving snide and impolite remarks will help improve the image, on contrary I think its make it worse and leave a bad impression about indians. Being Indian I apologize on his behalf to Mindy and others.

  27. Hi Nick
    Love your site -we are also overlanding from Australia to the UK -we’re in Kolkata now heading north to Sikkim in a few days -before crossing into Nepal for our 2 month “out of India” time (and to have a look there of course!) We plan to go through Pakistan in March 2011 -did u come through that way?

    Safe travels

    Andrew & Ann

  28. He had to skip Pakistan as they wouldn’t issue him a visa. It’s understandable as a month ago they had a major flooding disaster over there. It would’ve made it difficult if not impossible to drive across the country. That and there was the unrest going on there right before the flooding started.

  29. hey nick; been following you every day, going to miss logging on when your trip is done; actually i’ve been thinking, your “year” of living dangerously is over a year! when do you expect to return to new york? and, do you miss your previously lifestyle at home, friends, work? but your adventures are amazing; the pictures great- i look forward to seeing the places where i will never visit and understanding the culture of the different lands you visit; looking forward to reading your book about your time around the world ! be safe

  30. The Fantasticks is a 1960 musical play. It tells an allegorical story concerning two neighboring fathers who trick their children into falling in love by erecting a wall between their houses and staging a mock-abduction, so that Matt (young male) can seem heroically to save Louisa. After the children discover the deception, they each go off to experience the wider world. They return to each other bruised but enlightened by this journey, and renew their vows with more maturity.

    Elements of the play are ultimately drawn from the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, its plot steps winding through Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The show’s original off-Broadway production ran a total of 42 years and 17,000+ performances, making it the world’s longest-running musical.

    Your journey reminds me in many ways about this play. Of course, the true reasons why you decided to embark on this incredible journey is between you and your maker. However, having shared it with the rest of the world makes us all some small part of your adventure. Less than 50 days from the one year mark of your “Year of living Dangerously”, you must be getting tired… if not simply ready to come home. You, like Matt, may have had all the excitement one can desire and are ready to think in terms of a speedy exit strategy… even if it’s sooner than planned! Good luck…

  31. I’m so glad you are headed to my hometown/birthplace of Hyderabad. Can’t wait to hear about your time there.

  32. Dave and Amit thanks for your comments on the rude postings. Mindy should not have to apologize for her post. Thank you to all those who answer questions and provide additional information to Nick’s commentary in a polite and respectful manner.


  33. Hi Dave , Mindy et al,

    I apologize for being insensitive and publishing impulse replies which are hard to recall.
    I anyways do not represent all Indians, as the views, though impolite, but were strictly mine.
    Some times its good just to enjoy the blog and not get carried away, and become judgemental.
    Sorry again. Enjoy !

  34. Hey Nic
    Praying and following you all the way. There are so many times you pop into my mind, I pray for you and then go check where and how you are.
    May GOD BE YOUR REAR GUARD HIS angels directing every step.
    Friends in Nashville, Tennessee

  35. Hello mister!
    what an exciting journey!!! so jealous!
    I hope you’re keeping safe and having the time of your life!
    Hope to see you soon back in NYC

  36. Nicolas,

    thank you for the great pictures (yes, the cows on the beach at sunset were indeed pretty cool), and for the great adventure (makes me evade the office if only for a little while)… you are opening many eyes to an big world out there… one thing that would be interesting is getting your thoughts on some of your most memorable experiences so far… although maybe that’ll be better after a little while back at home and you can really reflect on all that has happened this year…

    In any case, enjoy your trip and good luck with everything

  37. I’m enjoying your trip vicariously. Know I could never handle a trip of this sort myself,
    so I’m glad to read about your travels and enjoy your photos. There is no other
    blog that i read regularly!

    btw, my mother is french and she showers more than I do! 😉
    (some other common things, im a graphic designer and live in brooklyn too)

    im glad this is in english because my french is weak but wondering what prompted you
    ecrire en anglais et non en français, ton langue maternelle?

    stay safe and enjoy!

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