Sunday 16th March
Up and off out early for a bicycle tour of Mamallapuram. Now I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a teenager and am not the most stable on a bike, so was already a bit dubious as to how the day would pan out!
We collected our bikes which turned out to be the most uncomfortable bikes ever. They are so narrow which means you struggle to get both feet on the pedals, your knees bang on the handlebars and the brakes barely work!
Still headed off on the death trap over to Shiva’s butter ball! This is a huge ball of rock that is precariously perched with nothing holding it upright. It was pretty cool and popular with locals and school children alike. All around it were small temples with beautiful bas-reliefs and carvings.
We then cycled over to another couple of temples which were just as beautiful and packed with locals and school children. There is nothing like the sound of 30 school children saying hello and wanting to be in photos with you.
After a hot few hours we finished the bike tour and headed back to the hotel. I somehow managed to make it back in one piece even though I couldn’t stop on the bike without falling off it and I couldn’t turn sharp corners on it! The most traumatic bit was when a goat ran out in front of me and I almost mowed it down!
The afternoon we had some free time so I hit the pool and had a swim followed by lounging around the pool in the sun.
Late afternoon Sathish took Zoe, Shiv, Bronte, Indra and me to drive tuktuks. Zoe and Shiv were in one tuktuk and Indra, Bronte and myself in another. It has always been a dream of mine to buy a tuktuk and drive around India but I tell you what after 5 minutes behind the wheel I changed my mind! Bloody awful things to drive, give me a car any day! I do however have a new-found respect for tuktuk drivers! That night we had a nice meal on the roof and went to bed, no cards tonight.
Monday 17th April
Today saw us drive to Pondicherry, on route we stopped off at a salt farm and watch the guys slaving away in the intense heat harvesting salt. We then stopped at a weird place called Auroville, it’s a community set up where everyone is equal and are searching for spiritual enlightenment through concentration. There is a large gold ball-shaped building that contains an inner sanctum and a large glass crystal type thing! It’s all very futuristic and cult-esque! It was really interesting and had an excellent concept and its centre. We stayed for a while and had lunch in the restaurant, the food was all locally sourced and amazingly fresh. I actually had broccoli quiche and salad which was a welcome change to curry!
Upon arrival in Pondicherry we had a brief orientation walk and visited an ashram which was linked to the founders of Auroville. Early evening we headed to the beach with bags of powdered paint and had our own Holi celebrations on the beach! It was hilarious and very messy! All the locals were watching on in amusement and taking pictures of us looking like idiots! We headed back to the hotel looking like we had an argument with the paint aisle of Homebase and tried to scrub ourselves clean!
This turned out to be a nightmare! We had to try to remove our clothes without getting paint powder over the hotel room. Both Zoe and I had underwear full of paint which didn’t come out so they went in the bin!
I had a multicoloured face, a purple back and orange boobs! No amount of scrubbing was removing it! So went out for a meal in the evening with a slight purple tinge to my arms and neck and a green forehead! Never a good look!
Zoe and I spent at least half an hour trying to clean the bathroom. The sink was spattered with purple paint, the floor was purple, the walls were purple, even the shower curtain had taken on a purple tinge! No amount of scrubbing with nail varnish remover worked!
The evening saw us convening in Sathish’s room for another round of cards!
Today we drove to Madurai, the temple city. We had free time to explore the city and catch up on wifi and sleep! Too many late nights playing cards were taking their toll! Lol
Early evening we went to the cinema and watched a Kollywood movie (yes not Bollywood but Kollywood). There were no subtitles but Sathish did a very good job of playing chinese whisper subtitles…he would tell me what was going on, I would pass it to Indra on my left and then it would filter down the row to the rest of the group. I must admit I was improvising….Sathish went into great detail at the beginning to explain that the main character had unfairly been involved in a traffic incident and the traffic police had taken his keys, asked for a bribe and kept him at police station etc etc….I decided ‘he’s having a bad day’ would cover this off quicker!
The evening may or may not have involved cards….cannot remember. All the card evenings started blurring into one if I’m honest!
We did a morning tour around the Sri Meenaskshi temple, which is something I have always wanted to see. Unfortunately we couldn’t go into the inner sanctum as that’s for Hindus only! But we still managed to see some of the inside and the main tower.
Afterwards we went to a beautiful palace where we danced to gangnam style on the dance floor! Woo woo! A few of us then went to get our palms read which was fun, I was basically told I am a revolutionary and have eccentric thoughts and views! Pretty spot on…..
We rushed back and then embarked on a cycle rickshaw tour of Madurai. Sathish and I were in a rickshaw together which was nicknamed the happy rickshaw! Sathish basically challenged me to say hi and wave to everyone I encountered in the 3 hours! So I rode around Madurai on the back of the rickshaw like the Queen of Sheba! Got my royal wave down to a tee and spread a little happiness around to the population of Madurai!
During the tour we stopped at the Mahatma Gandhi museum, a laundry and various markets. The laundry was an outdoor affair with big stone pits filled with black water and men standing in them rinsing and the beating the clothes onto the stone. Another man was standing in a barrel stamping on clothes in water. I jokingly asked Sathish if this is where our clothes come to be washed when we put them into the laundry at a hotel and he said ‘yes’, deadly seriously! Brilliant!
We also met the man who ironed, he had a coal powered iron! A huge heavy metal thing full of red-hot coals! I have never seen an iron like it! It was pretty cool to see what is a fully mechanised and electrically powered process in the west be done in a traditional method.
The evening was a quiet affair, everyone hit bed after dinner. No cards! Lol
Early start today, 7am….headed over to Thekkady. Stopping on route at a brick factory and a spice plantation. We basically ate everything…from basil to a leaf that stops you tasting anything sweet after eating it to sweet cinnamon and an ear drum breaker chilli! Only a few of us tried the chilli, my god it was hot. Nice but christ my eyes were watering for hours after!
The afternoon was free so I decided to go with Zoe, Shiv, Indra, Bronte and Sathish to the elephant sanctuary. Sathish and I were photographers whilst the others went on a half an hour ride, then scrubbed the elephant before having an elephant shower and then feeding it mangoes! Lovely chilled afternoon.
Late afternoon most of us headed to a martial arts centre to watch a show. Zoe and myself were quite excitable as the guys were dishy and wielding weapons and muscles!
They demonstrated various different fighting techniques and weapons before engaging in combat with each other. There were daggers, swords, shields, lances, bamboo canes, fire and flexible swords! They were amazing, the guy was throwing these flexible swords around him creating sparks, making the lights flicker and showering us in chunks of clay from the floor! The finale was jumping through flaming hoops! Immense!
Afterwards we could go down into the gladiatorial pit and have our photos taken with the guys, I had my shoes off before they had even finished announcing it. Straight after the show we headed up to a cooking class, where Zoe and I somehow managed to cut the beans to thick, the okra to thick and the onions too small! Still tasted ok! We helped cooked the curries and make parathas before devouring the whole lot! It was delicious!
After a full on day we headed back to the hotel and Zoe, Sathish and I chilled out before Sathish and I played a hilarious game of rummy. Fun times!
Today we left Thekkady and headed to Alleppey and the beautiful backwaters, we stopped on route at a tea plantation where we followed the tea making process through and tried some tea. Really interesting to learn how its made.
We then continued onto Alleppey and had to squeeze on the most unbalanced row-boat to go across the river to the homestay for the night. We checked in and then had a few hours spare time before backwaters walking tour. I made the most of the balcony we had, lounging in the sun listening to music, watching houseboats chug along the backwaters.
We then went out on a 2 hour backwater walking tour which was more like a power walk. Beautiful scenery basked in the orangey red light of sunset. We then jumped in rowboats for a 40 min journey back to the homestay. We sat watching the stars and the lights of houses along the waters whilst our guide sang local malayalam fishing songs.
Upon arrival back at the homestay we had dinner and then embarked on the most lethal drinking game which turned quite hilarious and messy! It will be a while before I drink rum again!
Last day of tour…
Today we sailed in a motorboat back to Alleppey and then jumped in the minibus and headed back to Fort Kochi. Robin, Ted, Bonny and Pam went their separate ways leaving Zoe, Shiv, Bronte, Indra and myself. We had a few hours free time in which I showered and slept before going out to the tibetan restaurant for food and the xl bar for a drink.
Well I got up at 4.10am, jumped in a taxi with Shiv at 4.30 and headed to the airport for the 7am flight to Delhi. Staying in a total dive of a hotel, could be a brothel to be honest! But its right by the airport and £8 for the night! Just having some me time and catching up with mates via skype and facetime and detoxing out the rum! Heading back over to the airport in the morning to meet Zoe and then we are heading over to the joining hotel for our next tour.