I am holed up with a sleeping bag and some Kendal mint cake and 90 cans of assorted beans. The perfect storm is hitting the south coast and it’s hell out there. Hairstyles are standing on end; dustbins are taking off and my onions have fallen off the windowsill. Oh yes, plus, I have ‘lost’ a plant pot. I daren’t go out for fear of something falling on my head and killing me. Reminds me of the Blitz – sorry, I mean the 1987 storm when I was in London and went to get the bus to work but the bus stop had blown away. Now that was a storm! Anyway, more India: Tuesday, 12 February. ‘Departure day. I had a tear in my eye as our rickshaw left town and we climbed out of the valley, leaving the rocky landscape behind. And so began our 24 hour journey further south. We caught the sleeper train to Bangalore. I slept on the top bunk, Tim on the bottom (which was brave of him as bottom bunkers often have to share their berth with cockroaches!). As on our last train, we were travelling 3rd class which meant six people to a compartment. There was a couple of chatty businessmen who wanted to talk about cricket and a mother and her boy. It was heads down at 9.30pm although I was awake at 2am, surprise, surprise, wanting the toilet. Clambering off the top bunk, trying not to tread on anyone on the way down reminded me of caravan holidays with mum and dad. The train was all clean and comfortable, even the toilets, which were stainless steel from top to bottom. I’m getting quite adept at positioning myself directly over the hole (although I did have one scare when my wallet containing my credit card and passport almost went the way of my poo as I was pulling my trousers up). We arrived in Bangalore (which felt a bit like Clapham junction without the cappuccino) just in time for rush hour and changed onto another train for Mysore, a breezy, open city of wide boulevards and gardens. We then took a rickshaw to the bus station and got on a local bus (read holes in the under carriage and seats big enough for a Barbie doll) to Madikeiri. We were the only two tourists on it but there were a few Tibetans as there are a number of monasteries in the area. The bus driver was a maniac and I thought we were going to crash several times. Horns are ubiquitous – they have to be. With cows, people, dogs, rickshaws, motorbikes, cycles and other buses fighting for their right of way, it’s chaos. But somehow, it works. Having said that, we did see one crash and one lorry that had come off the road and overturned. The roads are pretty poor with holes, speed bumps and other hazards at every turn but strangely few traffic signals. Consequently, we were pretty shaken up by the time we arrived at our destination. Madekeiri felt like the Wild West and there was little in the way of redeeming qualities. I couldn’t see any temples or interesting architecture, just a sprawl of ugly shops with not even a decent restaurant to eat in. We found a trek organiser and got the hell out of there – 24kms up into the hills and the most blissfully serene and stunningly beautiful place I’ve yet seen in India. Valley Dew is a homestay – 3 plantation style bungalows with verandas surrounded by lush vegetation and flanked by Mt. Kottabetta. To say were were exhausted on arrival would be an understatement. We had dinner on our verandah and retired to our room, a very basic 2 bed affair with a rag rug and a bare light bulb. We soon drifted off to the hum of crickets, filling the night air.’ more to come…..