Trains are cheap about R 800 ($20.00) 2nd class to travel for around 12hrs, it varies if you go 3rd class it costs half that or less. Buses for the same distance are R 150 or less ie way cheaper and a very different experience, full of small towns and tea stops. So we took the bus again from Madurai to Trichy R70, about a 6hr ride.
We spent most of the day on roads next to fields of Palm trees or rice paddies, its still the dry season so dust is every where and when they say India gets under your skin they mean it. Towards sunset we went past giant rocks very similar to Ayers Rock in Australia. The bus station in Trichy was huge, we knew there were a few Hotels near the station so we just wandered until we found one and checked out the room, yep no mozzy net, no toilet paper, one or two lizards and a few cockroaches, no sheets, perfect R500.
We confess we had a Pizza! the cafe next to our hotel had pizza on the menu, 1st time we had seen that anywhere, and heck it was not spicy and was great! Real pizza, too bad it was not a meat lovers. We could not eat it all and tried to give the last two slices to the waiter, his mom (probably 80yrs old) also worked there clearing tables and he looked sheepish as she gave him the evil eye on the idea of eating western food.
Up early stashed our bags at front desk and headed for the Fort and Temple.
For all the traffic and apparent chaos I saw the 1st road accident on the way to the Fort, it did not look good a pedestrian had been hit by a car/bus.
To get to the Fort we had to find the hidden temple entrance on a small side street. Just past a giant Sari (classic Indian dress of bout 3m of fine silk or cotton material) shop we found it. We could see the Fort way up above (500ft?) us and about 1.5km away, and right here is where the Temple starts and we had to remove our shoes and leave them, We started out with a blessing from the temple elephant, each level of the temple stairs took us higher and when out on open steps the rock was really hot on bare feet so we had to run from shady spot to shady spot. Its a steep climb up many stairs and through different temple areas. back out into the full sunshine the lack of shoes makes us run for the top, the view is spectacular and the haze cannot hide the other Temples on the far side of the river about 4 miles away, the river is almost dry and about 1km wide, all around us there is a feeling that every creek and river is about to burst with water as soon as the monsoons arrive.
On the way back down I am (Mary is gone not sure where) invited in to a giant temple hall that has about 100+ palm leaf lunches lade out across the stone floor and many hungry people are about to get an awesome free lunch.
Donating money at the Temple instead of giving to street beggars helps pay for food for many hungry poor people to eat and is the best way to help the poor and makes sure the money is used for food rather than other uses.
I declined the meal as Mary would have had a few words about my eating without her!
Found Mary and our shoes at the bottom of the Temple steps, we wandered into the Sari shop as it had a giant sale on and there were 3 very crowded floors full of buyers every Sari you could imagine from R2,500 to over R25,000, more than a motorbike!
Headed back to the main road and found the bus to the Temple, crossing over the river the temples loomed high above the palm trees. From where the bus dropped us of we walked half a km and on the way were peering into an ancient locked shrine and up popped a friendly monk on a bike with a key to let us in!
Like an ancient skyscraper the Temple tower’s way above the street. As we entered the Temple gate we ran into a small noisy procession led by drummers and followed by an oxen drawn cart covered in flowers. Wandering around the temple many areas were closed to non-hindus but we soon found an Elephant and many more statues of Shiva and other friendly gods.
Some Temples you feel completely welcome at and others there is a sense that perhaps we are not quite as welcome and I cannot say I blame them it is a sacred site and tourists with giant cameras are way out of place really.
Towards 5pm we paid 10Rp to get on the roof of the temple, lovely views across the temple and almost no one else up there, one man we chatted with apparently was a priest and had been at Mother Teresa’s bed side giving the last rites when she died. We stayed until almost sunset when they closed the temple.
Caught the bus back to the Hotel and grabbed our bags before jumping on the sleeper train to Chingleputti (not spelt right). We thought it arrived at 8am but turned out to be 4am… sigh never mind we had an early morning Chi in the dark with a bunch of tuk-tuk drivers and waited for the 1st bus to Mamallapurram at 5.40am.
Its only about a 40min bus ride to the coast and the sun was up by the time we arrived. had another Chi at the bus stand to help get our bearings and met a hotel owner, we went back to his place that turned out to be almost on the beach and had a large swimming pool, after a bit of haggling he gave us a pretty good deal (500R) as all of India seems to like the 1st sale of the day and will drop the price considerably to make this 1st sale.
Finally we were on the beach, lovely sun rise over a beach full of small fishing boats, had breaky in a blue painted cafe and read the India Times with a cup of coffee.