Covering some Southern Ground

Well when last you left us, we were in Hampi, soaking up the atmosphere of the boulders and ruins and experiencing Divali.  We were also soaked… it rained ALOT in Hampi… not great in a place where there are no proper roads and the way to get to some of the sights was across the river in a coracle… we had to abandon our sunset ride on the river on the last day as it was just too high and menacing! Divali seemed to go on for around 3 days and involved fireworks in the street, lots of flowers and lovely smells and all the men gambling on street corners for money…. Divali is the festival of money afterall where followers give thanks to the godess Laxmi… one of the guys in our hotel lost 10,000 rupees!

Divali made it difficult for us to get out of Hampi… as all the trains were totally booked up. So we ended up on yet another delightful bus journey… spent most of it flying in the air as the roads were so bad! So we arrived in Bangalore feeling very tired and ready for some TLC. Bangalore is a very modern city, with connections to software and big business; the inventor of Hotmail is from there!

Essential City kit - walking boots and a map!

Apart from the Bamboo Bike (see blog at https://tattybackpacks.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/the-bamboo-bike-from-bangalore/) We didn’t have any specific plans… so spent some time refreshing ourselves – mooching around malls and bookshops, going bowling and going to see an American film… we even fit in a trip to a steak restaurant and had a few cheeky drinks. One afternoon was whiled away in the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum…which shared alot of exhibits with Magna where I work in Rotherham – some of the exhibits were very strange and others very modern.

After Bangalore – we headed via Chennai, to the east coast. We hooked up with another Couch Surfing person in Chennai, who we spent a couple of pleasant hours chatting with. We have not yet managed to surf any couches, but meeting Vijay and Gopu has been a great way to find out more about Indian life.

Check out the caption under the photo!

The way to travel in Tamil Nadu seems to be by bus… a word that strikes fear into our hearts… if it’s not an overnight sleeper bus which rattles our bones and never stops for toilet breaks, then its a local bus, which looks like it should be on a scrap pile and either has double the passengers on that it should, or wheels make thunderclap noises, or windows that rattle and leak, or a really loud ‘DVD playing on a crappy old screen – and before all that fun, you have to find the bloody thing in a bus station which resembles a riot scene! We did eventually find our bus to Mamallapuram… after standing in the wrong place (where we had been told to stand) for about an hour!

Mamallapuram is a small village on the east coast,  just south of Chennai. It has a fantastic shore template and the five rathas – a collection of monument temples and the best stone elephant in India.

Elephant in Mamallapuram

We spent 2 days exploring and looking at all the stonework which they produce here, from tiny stone pendants to giant elephants and snakes… some of it amazing work.

Next it was on to Pondycherry; a french colony and seaside retreat… on yet another local bus – yet again a pile of crap. We made it in one piece and checked into a nice hotel before heading out to explore. Pondycherry’s back streets with french architecture and ‘rue’ rather than street signs, were very strange, but there was good street food on offer and lots of shade in the European section of the town. The other side of the canal however on the Indian side – things moved up a notch in terms of craziness… hot, smelly and mad as always, the streets were lined with market stalls selling everything from earmuffs and ballaclava’s (yes you heard right… and it is Swealtering here!), the bangles and fish! Andy took a constitutional through a fish market – i just couldn’t face the smell! and we purchased a traditional indian wooden drum which on closer inspection was made from a thick tube of cardboard! oh yes… 2 days in Pondy was well enough and we booked yet another night bus (joy) to Madurai.

Meenakshi Temple in Madurai - 6.30am!

We decided to see the main sight in Madurai and then move on …. had enough of cities! The Meenakshi Temple is an astonishingly bright Hindu temple and very well maintained. Inside are numerous meditation areas, small shrines and stalls… plus a temple elephant with it’s own jazz band!

So then it was back to another chaotic bus station to board a local bus for 6 hours to Kanyakumari… the southernmost tip of the continent. It was a long and very hot journey and it was NOT worth it! We should have gone to the tip and then caught another bus…. but it was too late. Kanyakumari was smelly, touristy and busy and subject to multiple powercuts and no operating ATM’s. We felt proud to have reached the end of the country but ready to move on very swiftly.

Current location is Kovalam in Kerala, the most developed resort in India… yes its touristy and not too cheap, but the waves a great for surfing and boogie boarding and we are recharging batteries again. We headed over to a fishing port yesterday which is currently bustling with noisy fish wives and card-playing fishermen… but is set to be a major seaport for cruise liners in the next few years. We are glad we went while it was in its current state… having chai with the fishermen who spoke no English while they grinned at us was their toothless mouths, was a unique experience – unlikely to survive the western invasion. Plus Andy needs a few days to perfect his surfing stance and our hotel has a pool…. so it seems rude to rush off….

Andy with his really tatty surfboard

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tonton
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 16:40:57

    It has been very difficult keeping up with you both lately;you have covered
    quite a few(thousand?)kilometres in the last 2 months.By the time you return to base,next year(?),you will have circumnavigated the globe several times. It is not the distances that count,of course,but rather the unique
    experiences you are storing up for the future.Formidable les petits!
    After the sub-tropical temperatures at the southern-most tip of the continent & chilling-out on the windsurf at Kovalam beach,you are probably now savouring a few cups of delicious chai in the misty hills,amidst the tea-
    plantations.A much more relaxing environment than many of those you
    have visited recently.After all,isn’t “variety the spice of life”? & you don’t find
    many countries “spicier” than India,nespa? Tonton.

    Reply

    • bannisto
      Nov 22, 2010 @ 03:12:04

      We have covered loads… we met a couple from St Malo last night who have been here for almost 3 months and have barely moved around… think that would drive me mad! We are here to experience new things after all! We have a mini monsoon at the moment so all our plans are being scuppered… supposed to be going on a houseboat tomorrow but it is going to be too wet and the experience is not cheap so it would be a waste… we might head up to the hills to the tea plantations… where being wet it not a problem! Then head back to the houseboat later.
      xxx

      Reply

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