When one first arrive to Puri, it is not easy to find the right hotel or pension. The taxi drivers and the people who drive the scooter taxis have commission deals with various lodging establishments, and they take you there. We felt we did not come to the right place when we got a hotel room for our first night in Puri, but we were tired after the long train journey and almost went straight to bed. Check-out at the hotel was at nine, so I got up early next morning and had a cup of tea in the hotel’s front yard. Wearing my black hat and loose clothes I enjoy the cool morning in Puri. The hotel staff wondered if we would continue our stay at the hotel, which is recommended by Lonely Planet. I said we were not sure, but would find it out. I peek out the gate and see an elderly man from Europe wearing a Tyrol hat, he smiles at me and come in and sit down at the table and orders tea while speaking Indian. Two men with hats meet, and we naturally start talking. His name is Thomas, and he is from Berlin. His first time in Puri was for over 20 years ago, and he has been here yearly for over ten years – I am thinking this must be the man who can help us finding the right place here. And yes, he is, he says the hotel we have booked is not the best in town, neither by price nor quality. He has booked a place where he has the same room every time he is here. It is not a hotel, but more like a guest house. When we check out of the hotel, we go along with Thomas to look at the place, it seems perfect, and there are vacant rooms, we settle us here.
Hotel Saigar Sagate is one of the oldest hotels in Puri, but now it is more like a guest house. It is reasonable, we book two rooms for about 70 NOK (â‚¬ 8.8) in total. Here one keeps the room tidy oneself, and it is more like renting a small flat than living at hotel. From the terrace we can see straight into the fishing village, which is situated between the guest house and the beach. It is like peering into an Indian reality, an entertaining view. I am still a bit upset and tired after the train journey from Varanasi, so I keep calm the first days in Puri. My room has more than spacious enough for one person. There is a toilet and a bed with a mosquito net.
From the terrace I see the fishing village, it is full of activity. Women carrying water on their heads, moving gracefully into the narrow alleys in the village. Gangs of children playing and looking at us through the gate. In the back garden of Saigar Sagate there is litter everywhere, mostly the idiotic plastic bags which never decompose. People from the fishing village throw all sorts of litter over the wall surrounding the back garden. The owner does not care, nothing is cleaned here, this is India, a place where plastic bags absolutely does not work. When I was here in 1972, there was no problem with plastic bags, now there are heaps of them everywhere. In India they have always packed stuff into palm leaves or paper, the kind of wrapping that decays or get eaten by cows or pigs, which functions as cleaners. Now the holy cows die due to constipation with their stomachs full of undigested plastic bags. Plastic bags, this damned invention have become a scourge for India. To make a plastic bag which is used for about an hour, and then never decays or gets recycled is top-notch stupidness and a heritage from the West. The malaria mosquitoes thrives in the heaps of plastic bags, the plastic environment is ideal for hatching malaria mosquitoes, and this has led to an increase in the population of the dangerous malaria mosquitoes. It is not only in India this is a problem, but in large parts of the third world.
One wake up at sunrise here, golden light trickles through the windows and the crows welcome the new day. The guest house is a popular area for the crows, a good sign according to Kaare. In the mornings I share coffee with Thomas. He has brought with him his own coffee from Germany, in India it is hard for him to find the coffee he prefers. He was only six months old when the second world war started. His father was non-existent during the war, and his mother was half Jewish, surprisingly enough he survived. As a five-year old he fled from shelter to shelter, when Berlin was bombed to pieces. He is ten years older than me, and at the end of the war he was at the age of my oldest grandchild. The thoughts wander, I have never met someone who were present during the bombing of Berlin. After the war he lived a humble life as a gardener and garden worker. He has a low pension, but can afford a yearly trip to India, and live a better life here than in Berlin. He has learned from his travels in India. In the seventies he struggled with alcohol, but now he as been dry for over twenty years. Thomas is an Aikido master and teaches aikido in Puri, he has done that for the last ten years. Probably the best guide we could have found in Puri.
Sadhu is still with us for a couple of days. Kaare and Sadhu explore the beaches and Puri, while I enjoy life on the terrace at Saigar Sagate most of the time. Suddenly we get a phone call from Pushkar, Oscar the camel has gotten and infection and is ill. Sadhus needs to get there as soon as possible and take care of the camel Kaare has given him. The desert boy Sadhus missed his family and the desert when he walked along the beaches in Puri. Neither did he understand the dialect spoken in Puri, so he felt a bit unwell when he was here. Now he is going to travel by plane for the first time in his life. It is an excited Sadhu who leaves us. He has got a mobile phone and is going to call us when he arrive in Pushkar.
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