Posts Tagged ‘Tamil Nadu’
I was really looking forward to visiting Ooty – A few cool and peaceful days in the mountains after the hot plains of Tamil Nadu. In reality we got a dirty overcrowded smelly shithole, with a large open sewer running through the middle. Straight away I’m thinking how am I going to stay here longer than a night.
But we did stay longer than a night and we kind of managed to get used to the smell and pollution. And I wouldn’t say it was all bad, we managed a couple of things to fill up the days – and ate a couple of nice meals.
The first full day of our visit trip was day 9 of the Of the Ooty horse races. I expected it to be a little busier being the high season for Indian tourists, but we had the place to ourselves and a few gamblers hanging round the turf accountants desks. Right in the middle is a great big piece of grass to sit on and cheer on the horses. A few of the locals took us under their wings and advised us which horses were going to win, none of which came in. In fact we had better luck just guessing or picking a name that sounded good.
The weird thing was the bookies would stop taking bets on a horse in each race just after betting began and 8 times out of 9 this horse won. We have favourites in the UK and if the betting gets too high sometimes the might stop taking bets but this just seemed like blatant race fixing. No wonder there is such a big issue about this happening in the IPL.
Next was a trek into the surrounding hills, where finally we managed to get away from the piles of rat infested rubbish – seriously if anybody ever tells me London is dirty again….. Anyway the hills were beautiful and green and very similar to the hills where I’m from in Scotland. They just keep rolling off into the distance to the borders of Kerala and Karnataka. We visited a Toda home where they showed us their wedding album and made us some buffalo milk coffee. They told us that in their culture they don’t get married until the first baby arrives. I’m not sure who this benefits, I doubt the men want to marry if there is a miscarriage or maybe even if it’s a girl, but who am I to judge their culture.
We finished up the walk visiting some waterfalls and a dam, where we had a great thali for lunch with unlimited chapattis and a fiery hot fried cabbage dish. Then we took the bus back down to Ooty for some well earned rest.
On our last day we took a trip down to Coonoor on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Just as we get onto the platform Andrea realises she’s lost the ticket and has to run back to the hotel too look for it, but its not there. The conductor doesn’t seem to care though and after checking our names against his sheet sends us to our seats. The journey itself isn’t that spectacular, I’m sure going down past Coonoor it’s more dramatic, and it’s ruined by a load of English kids singing songs about Jesus.
Coonoor isn’t much better than Ooty, another manky town full of rubbish and a dirty market. We do an Auto tour to see a tea plantation and a nice view point out over the plains. But it’s all a bit underwhelming and really I’m glad to get back on the train.
And speaking of underwhelming, we visit possible the worst attempt at a theme park in all of world – Jollyland! Nothing jolly about this place, in fact nothing even to write about. My only consolation is it cost Rp5, exactly what it was worth.
It was hard trying to find things to like about Ooty. Sure the scenery and the climate are nice, but I found Munnar and Kumily much more pleasant places to visit and you can do everything there you can in Ooty with the exception of Railway and Races. It wasn’t so bad but after looking forward to it so much I feel a bit let down. Still you can’t like everything.
We werereally here for 2 things but actually Pondy has turned out to be great place to take a short break from the madness of the Tamil towns. There’s less honking, less cars almost and a nice cool breeze coming off the sea.
And there are baguettes. Crunchy sourdough ones filled with salad and grilled tuna. This is the first thing I eat and it would be a great sandwich anywhere. I feel a little bit like I’m giving in eating western food, but this is French India where the sandwiches and coffee rule, so I’m forced to indulge.
One night in and we decide to go to Satsanga, the restaurant across the street from our guesthouse, where for INR250 we can eat a fillet steak. Honestly I wasn’t really expecting that much, a sandwich was one thing but having decent meat and someone who can cook it is another.
But I was so wrong. It wasn’t just good; this was one of my all time favourite steak eating moments. I ask for rare thinking it’ll still be completely cremated, but it comes out almost bleu and so tender. It couldn’t have been more perfect for me. It’s actually as if I had shown them how cook it for me.
And hand cut chips, super crisp. Even the pepper sauce, although probably the weakest part of the meal was as good as many I’ve had in Europe. I’ve definitely seen worse being served. To top it off the give us half a loaf of home baked bread to mop up the plate with. Well maybe not specifically to do that but it’s what I use mine for.
The whole time I’m sitting there though, something is niggling at the back of my mind. How were these animals raised? How were they treated? What were they fed? So I’ve decided to set up a farm where I feed the cows banana peel and plastic bags. I’ll let them walk around towns and tie them up at the side of the motorway to make use of the grass there.
Hey, if it works here.
From Periyar down the back of the Western Ghats it’s a sharp drop onto the plains of Tamil Nadu. And the heat becomes unbearable as soon as you get round the last hairpin bend. The scenery changes, gone are the lush green forests of Kerala, all around as far as the eye can see are dried out rice paddies and the odd field of ginger.
But the heat is the big difference. It means we have to hide in our rooms for a few hours in the afternoon everyday. Luckily this isn’t a problem as most temples are shut in the afternoon, reopening around 4pm. This is the best time of day to visit – when the sunlight is fading over the tops of the gopurams (towers) and the people inside are a lot calmer.
In Madurai everybody comes to see the Sri Meenakshi Temple dedicated to the triple breasted fish eye goddess. It’s in the heart of the city and seems to be the focal point of life. There are over a million people in this city and they all seem to be going to or coming from the temple.
After navigating through the security, and dropping off bags and shoes it’s a long walk round the temple outskirts to the main entrance, it’s a bit like entering a fortified city. It gives you a good chance to look at the huge towering gopurams with all their individual gods and goddesses carved into them. Actually it’s almost like you are forced to stand under them, to gaze in awe.
Once inside you get to see the carved columns of the main hall and the shrines dedicated to the temple Gods. But it’s the sheer size of the place and the fact that it’s a living, breathing place of worship where people have been coming for the last 2500 years that really makes an impression on me.
In Trichy the Sri Ranganathaswamy – why can’t they have easy names, is even bigger. This place really seems to be a self enclosed city. People are sleeping everywhere – whole families on pilgrimages, beggars, temple priests, hawkers all fighting it out for the best spots and to get to the front to give puja to their chosen gods.
It amazes me how much of an integral part of society these places are. In the English Cathedrals tourists out number worshipers 10 to 1 and although amazing places to visit, it’s often hard to find a feeling of spirituality. Here you can’t get away from it its right in your face.
Sadly we didn’t make it to Tanjore, the 42c days got the better of us and I think it’s about time we had some cheese.