Sunday, February 1, 2015


The South at long last. From Nasik we took a bus 5 hours to Mumbai, then a train 21 hours to Kochi, Kerala (thank god for the foreign tourist quota and Tatkal tickets, and every other strange reservation of rail tickets that makes our impulsive travel possible). A town full of tourists and hot, humid air, but I don't mind for these few days of beach town, easiness and safety walking around. We didn't do many of the touristy things there, mostly wandered as always. It's easy to feel like that time is wasted of not seeing the Sights, but it is just as valuable to get the feel of a place without the museums and monuments.

Ferry Ride Ernakulam to Ft. Cochin Rupees 4 Only:
And the man spoke slowly for his lips were encrusted with barnacles, and the fish were skipping stones around the oil drills, and the white whiskers protruded from the dark skin of his cheek. A rectangle of men around me, a kilo of lightly squashed oranges in my lap. I had a milky sweet coffee for the pink hot clean water, each drained, bill impaled on a metal stake. The air is mostly water now, waves too big for the foam to form a pattern again. Fishing nets, chests thrust forward, heads facing across the channel of water. Dredge VIII spewing waves and jets of dirty water. We are bobbing backwards in the waves, elephants slinking like cats on the road, arching. So many bottles floating in this water, messages drunk clear through. Mad rush to get in the boat, India is one big game of musical chairs. Seems like you're on the moon, he said, proly right, proly right.
We didn't sleep the last night. Heat and Caffeine and probably the restlessness of the last week of Known. Miserable warm when the power would go out, the smell of sewer bubbling up and a solitary mosquito. Mr. Skitters the cockroach making infrequent appearances in our bathroom.
Strolled on the boardwalk past fish stalls and ice cream and trinkets, juice, coconuts, trash and rocks and sand and dogs. Sat on the beach, dipped our ankles in the Arabian sea, watched the sun set behind the smog.

Bus to Madurai 10(?) hours on smooth roads, but living up to its superfast express name, the bus barely kept us in our seats on hours of curves. Arrived too early, so we waited for dawn at the bus stop. We are cautious taking auto rickshaws in odd hours in new cities, and anyhow had nowhere to go. Took another bus into town and talked our way into staying at a grungy hotel (but madam there is such a nice place just down the road, are you sure? Indian toilet only, are you sure?). We slept a long, long time to old Bollywood songs and a merciful fan. Wandered a ridiculous amount of time in search of food, usually in India no need (especially food!) is farther than a few blocks away. But in the end it was entirely worth the circling around. A magnificent south thali, heap of rice on a banana leaf with a dozen little bowls of coconut chutneys, vegetables, sambhar, curd, rasam, sweet. On these streets were mountains of fruit, pineapple, and so many bananas, whole trees of bananas. But the reason we were in Madurai at all was the Meenakshi Temple, a massive complex framed by huge towers carved with thousands of deities brightly painted. A candy cane striped pool in the middle reflecting the pillars, gold and painted in bright pink, orange, green, blue, yellow. We went for several hours each of the days we had there. We haven't had a guide anywhere we've gone yet, so we don't get all the highlights and history but we do sit for hours staring at whatever the heck we want, we get to watch birds flying in circles round and round one of the towers.

Bus 9(?) hours to Chennai on a straight smooth road, and miracle of sweet miracles, our seats reclined! The magic wore off as soon as we arrived and realized that it was late and Chennai is a really big city and we had forgotten to eat all day. Paid a ridiculous feeling auto fare (6 dollars oh the horror!) the long way to the place Lonely Planet said had some cheap hotels. I don't know quite how we always manage to find a place to stay, but we always do.

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