A Travellerspoint blog

Mammallapuram

We drove from Chennai to Mammallapuram, a beachside town for a few days of rest after our hosting in Chennai. Mammallapuram was hit by the 2004 Tsunami and the waves went across the town at treetop level.

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After our arrival, we had a period of rest and lunch and then went on a tour of the local landmarks, temples carved out of solid granite which includes the World Heritage Shore Temple complex. The statues date back to the 7th century AD. There is a large bas relief known as Arjuna's Penance which features elephants which is the second biggest carving in the world beside one at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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On our walk, we encountered a fortune teller who had a bird who selected cards from a stack and when he stopped the fortune teller gave his verdict.

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A huge rock known as Krishna's Butterball is located within one of the temple areas. This massive rock was considered a hazard by the British who tried to dislodge it using elephants but it would not budge.

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The Shore Temple is a small but rather beautiful structure set on a headland at Mammallapuram Beach.

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Early the following morning, we took some local bicycles for a ride to a local village. The bikes themselves were quite comfortable - the handle bars were very narrow, however, which took some getting used to. We stopped to watch a potter demonstrate his skills - sadly he is apparently the last one of his kind. The potters wife demonstrated making her welcome sign outside their door. This is quite common in both villages and in the poorer areas of cities.

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Later that afternoon, Charles arranged for two auto rickshaw drivers to allow us to try driving them. We went to an open area and after a demonstration of how to operate the rickshaws were given control. One of the drivers was confident enough to let us go by ourselves, the other was not. This was another great experience during our tour - we've been for enough rides in auto rickshaws so it was interesting to see how they handle.

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The following day, we visited a rubbish recycling centre in Mammallapuram which was wonderful. One would hope over time that such centres will become the norm in India which certainly does need to effectively dispose of their refuse - plastic in particular is a curse in most places. The plant makes compost of our biodegradable waste and cow dung, recycles plastics and creates methane gas in a plant which came 2nd in the world in a completion (out of 600 entries) which is very credible. There is a lot of education provided to schools and to the community in general.

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Last year, I visited Mammallapuram for the International 41 AGM and while I was on the beach at dawn one morning, a fisherman by the name of Rama came accross to see if I might like to purchase some souvenirs and I did visit later that day. Given I was bringing a group back to India in 2013, I promised to return with my group and that is what we did after lunch at the nearby Ideal Resort. Rama was very delighted and made a good profit that day and I left him on the beach with tears in his eyes. Really special to be able to support a small local community where they have very little.

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Posted by Chris White 09:03 Archived in India Comments (4)

Chennai

After an overnight train journey from Mysore, we arrived on time in Chennai at around 0730.

We were met by our hosts and spent a restful day in different locations. For six of us, that meant some time at a large modern beach house for the afternoon which was superb - a swim in the pool, a few beers and a lovely lunch. Andrew found an Indian who seemed to sweat more than he - much to his delight...

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That evening we were all hosted for dinner by Dr Sid, the immediate past Indian 41 President and current International 41 Secretary. This was very generous of Sid and Lakshmi his wife and they had travelled by overnight train to Chennai and then home again to Salem (their home town) immediately after the dinner. It was a very pleasant evening for all.

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The following day, we had a city tour and visited the fort, beach area and St Thomas the Apostle Church who died in Chennai. His tomb is beneath a lovely church in the city.

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That evening was spent with our various hosts and the following morning the boarded our bus for the beach at nearbyMammallapuram. It was the last of our home hosting by 41 Clubs in India - all three cities were very generous and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.

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Posted by Chris White 10:19 Archived in India Comments (2)

Mysore

We drove for four hours to reach Mysore from Wayanad on our bus and for much of the drive we traversed through many kilometers of cultivated fields - clearly a very rich area for agriculture with many fields freshly plowed.

On arrival in Mysore, we had some free time and many of the group went for a drive to see a beautiful temple some 40 kilometers from Mysore and then to a smaller temple that overlooked the city of Mysore. Others took the time to have some much appreciated time out to rest or explore the local shops.

That evening we had dinner in a restaurant known as the Cave which was quite literally fashioned as one. The skies opened up while were in the restaurant for a period of torrential rain and the ride back to our hotel was through water at least ankle deep - the wash from at least one tuk tuk spraying across me at chest height as it passed. The ride to the restaurant cost me 30 rupees (80c) - the return trip was 50 ($1.10) rupees because of the rain when they double their rates.

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The following morning we had a walk through the city of Mysore which included a visit to the local produce market which was very colourful.

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We concluded the walk with a visit to the Mysore Palace - the home to the local Maharajah until the 1970s. This palace was built in 1912 on the foundations of an earlier palace which was destroyed by fire. The palace was quite opulent but unfortunately photographs within were prohibited and we needed to deposit our cameras for safekeeping before entry.

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The afternoon was free time for us and a few of us took the opportunity to visit the town of Seringapatam which is the site of a battle between Sultan Tipu (known as the Tiger of Mysore) and the British in which Tipu was defeated and who died in battle in 1799. The British destroyed the fort that had been constructed with input from French engineers.

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We walked through the fort's water gate and down to the local stream running beneath the battlements where some women were doing their dhobes (washing). Stonework robbed from the destruction of the fort had been fashioned into a washing basin.

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Nothwithstanding the destruction, there are still significant remnants of the battlements and buildings that had existed within the walls of the fort still exist, such as the Jumma Masjid Mosque built by Tipu in 1787. The two minirets of the mosque were home to a number of pigeons, used in former times as carrier pigeons (in the days before SMS and email as was described by the guy who kindly guided us around the mosque. A school for children studying Islam is run within the mosque.

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After leaving the town, we visited Tipu's Summer Palace, a small but very eleborate building which was highly decorated both on the exterior and interior. Photography was prohibited, but when I saw the locals snapping away (who paid 5 rupees as locals vs our 100 as foreigners), I took a few discrete shots - without flash so as not to damage the delicate paintwork.

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The interesting thing was that following Sultan Tipu's death, the palace became the residence of Colonel Arthur Wellesley who was appointed governor of Seringapatam and Mysore. Wellesley later became the Duke of Wellington, who in 1815 became famous for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo.

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The afternoon concluded with a few quiet Kingfishers alongside the Kaveri River.

We departed for Chennai by overnight train at 8.30pm.

Posted by Chris White 21:37 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mudumalai

On Safari in the South - Wild Elephant Country

Once we left Wayanad after a restful few evenings we proceeded by bus to the Edakkal Caves where after a steep climb, we entered a cave and saw rock drawings that are estimated to be around 6000 years old. Figures of men, peacocks and wheels amongst other things were etched into the rock face.

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On our return, we drove another three hours to Mudumalai, our second safari visit on the tour. On the way, we stopped for lunch and after that, we drove for some time through tea plantations which roll on forever across the hills. We stopped briefly to see some tea pickers in the fields.

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Charles our guide for the Southern Indian part of our tour bought a whole bunch of bananas for the princely sum of 100 rupees (about NZ$2.50). It was interesting to note the different varieties of banana on sale. While stopped at one roadside café, an unusual rubbish bin was spotted – barely a quarter full. I saw (with some disbelief) a café worker when cleaning up some ice cream rubbish within the café toss the packaging directly out of the window – you really have to wonder…

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On our arrival in Mudumalai, we visited the Elephant Camp where several working elephants were tethered to a rail and were ultimately fed their evening meal.

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Once done we drove to our accommodation and settled in briefly before a lovely buffet dinner. For that stop, a few of us selected tree house accommodation which was fairly basic but quite comfortable and thoroughly enjoyed that experience over the two days we were accommodated there. The resort we stayed in was not fenced and we were unable to move out of our accommodation during the evening hours.

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Speaking of wildlife, probably one of the funniest things I saw on the tour occurred on our arrival at our treetop rooms. David Pigou was quite perturbed to find a creature in his toilet (literally). On further inspection, I found this was a chipmunk which had fallen into the toilet and was unable to get out. I used a doormat to provide the chipmunk something to climb out of the toilet and he promptly disappeared under David’s bed. All’s well that ends well - and the chipmunk must have found its way out of David’s room while we were having dinner after a period to regroup. One can only speculate what may have occurred if without looking, the toilet had been used - and how the chipmunk may have treated any low hanging fruit presented as a means of escape…

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We got up at dawn the following morning for a few hours walking through the local jungle with some guides. During that time it was very nice to listen to the birdsong and the monkeys. While we did not spot any wildlife of any significance, we came across tracks of a small leopard and a sloth bear (the latter within sight of where our accommodation was located.

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Later that day, we spent some time game viewing (in a convoy of jeeps and in a game viewing bus) and saw monkeys, deer, big squirrels (the size of cats) bison and wild elephants.

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That evening we enjoyed a lovely buffet (including some beautiful beef – the first in six weeks). It was Jenni Farr’s birthday and she was treated to a beautiful sari and a lovely birthday cake. While Jenni was being fitted into her sari, we all lit candles and awaited her arrival in a dining room which had been appropriately decorated. The cake had a very interesting candle which when a fuse was lit, opened into a number of smaller candles and played “Happy Birthday”. I think Jenni certainly had a day to cherish and to top it all off, a wild elephant was spotted roaming loose in our camp.

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Next stop is Mysore.

Posted by Chris White 06:38 Archived in India Comments (2)

Wayanad

Western Ghat

Our trip from Kochi to Wayanad started the day before we travelled. The bulk of our luggage was loaded onto our bus for the several hour journey overnight to the foothills of the Western Ghat.

We caught a four hour train trip the following morning which was delayed by 45 minutes. It was very interesting on arrival at the Kochi train station to note there was a 50 odd carriage train containing petrol sitting only one track beyond where passengers were assembled for their respective journeys. Goodness only knows what would have been left should that train had exploded (which we presume was full given the apparent overflow on some of the tanks). It is not likely that such a highly flammable cargo would be parked in such close proximity to a railway station in a first world country.

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On arrival at our destination in Calicut, we boarded our bus. I had spotted the bus sitting along the side of the road and alerted our guide Charles (it was a little earlier than he had thought). Shortly after we boarded the bus at the station, we found ourselves at a railway crossing with the barrier down and the wait lasted close to an hour while four trains passed.

The trip up the Western Ghat was interesting – a 1000 metre climb. The driving up the windy road was somewhat erratic with drivers desperate to overtake – sometimes around blind corners.

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After a drive of approximately four hours, we arrived at our destination deep in the Wayanad forest and shortly after arrival we enjoyed a lovely buffet.

The following morning, Charles our guide took us on a three hour walk through the local countryside stopping to show us various crops along the way. At one point in our travels, we went through an area which contained leeches and several of our group found they had attracted some unwanted visitors later along the way.

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The afternoon was spent enjoying a bit of peace and a welcome break – a few of us had haircuts. Some of the group visited an old temple nearby.

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Posted by Chris White 06:31 Archived in India Comments (0)

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