Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Great Escape

Not in my wildest dream could I have imagined what lay ahead.... Just 3 days ago we tried to cross the border from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. Rumour had it that there were intermittent mild troubles because of the ongoing dam issue but, upon arrival, the presence of Keralan police spelled otherwise. Whilst at the border it seemed worthwhile chatting to the Chief of Police anyway (a lovely man) who encouraged me to speak to the Tamil Nadu policeman just a few yards away. A not so lovely man, this guy said he would check with his commander in charge and left me waiting with the paparazzi. They were busy filming me so I asked them to stop and then we started chatting. "He iz bad man." one of them said in broken Ingleeesh. "Not safe, Ma'am." said another. Their warning was enough for me to cross back over the border to be promptly greeted by more pap - also more filming. No idea which/how many tv news stations might have featured me but the local Keralan press got a pic of Ros storming back to our autorickshaw in the inner cover of their daily paper. We have sure left our mark!

This was not, however, the only blockade. Where is the king of cool (aka Steve McQueen) when you need him?? You might have to re-read the next sentence.... Our 2nd epic attempt to leave Kerala was nearly thwarted by a cluster of... I kid you not.... 20+ rather large grey monkeys blocking our exit. Mr and Mrs monkey and their brood simply wouldn't budge - no sirey - they looked on nonchalantly as I tried stamping feet and making weird noises to galvanise them into 'appropriate' action. "Help!" I feebly shouted over to Ros. "Do something!" "What do you want me to do?" was the curt but discernibly scared retort. Finally we escaped by the skin of our teeth, praying these cheeky beasts wouldn't jump, scratch or bite. Cute they might look but best far off in the treetops.

So, what should've been a 3 hour cross border car journey became a 19 hour mission possible adventure the majority of which on a 'luxury' sleeper a/c coach. Whilst passengers are not allowed to open the curtains or switch on the reading lights to encourage 'rest' the coach operators have a select mix of either violent movies or twangy whiney music at full blast throughout. An ideal journey for a hyperactive insomniac! Still, at 3am I found myself negotiating a favourable autorickshaw rate over a cup of chai in order to get to our 'deluxe' hotel.... finally

Upon arrival (btw this is Tiruchirapalli, T Nadu) we were heartened to read about the said hotel's promised '24 hour check in and check out service' and 'we provide a warm welcome to our guests' but disheartened to see the snoring security guard. There was no waking him up from deep slumber so our new beds for the next 2 hours became the sticky leather sofas in the lobby with English blood-hungry mosquitoes. 2 hours later we were taken to our room - I should say 3 rooms until we got to one with non threadbare and clean(ish) sheets. Deluxe hotel .... see what I mean?!? This is India for you.

Needless to say we are taking things easy now and have only just visited Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (14th Century). It encloses part of the Srirangam villages and covers over 60 hectares, making it one of the biggest temples in India. You have to go through no less than 7 extremely ornate gopurams (walled courtyards) to reach the inner sanctum that is dedicated to Vishnu. Many of the temples are for Hindus only but with over 70 courtyards to see and a lot of people watching that was fine by us.

Dinner now and I've just spotted Domino pizza .. forget gluten free and quality... it has really come to that!

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