South India Solo
Trip Start Aug 21, 2003
22Trip End Ongoing
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Shortly after we sold our Enfield motorcycle in Delhi, Lauren and I parted. I hopped a train to see the world heritage listed Ellora caves and the Ajanta caves. These are cave temples hewn from rock by hand at bends in rivers
Goa was my next destination; with its idyllic beaches, great weather, cheap booze and an excellent tourist infrastructure, this place also belongs in my list of highlights of India. Goa is a small Portuguese enclave that retains European values like Catholicism and not so punitive taxes on booze. Its shores are packed with beaches to suit any taste, from backpacker hangout Palolem, to party central Anjuna, far flung reggae listening Arambol, and a few completely deserted ones. I rented a motorcycle on my birthday to sample all of the ones that interested me. I stayed at the three I mentioned above. In Goa particularly interesting liquor is made from the fruit of the cashew or coconut. It's called Fenny. This here is cashew country.
After Goa, I ventured to Hampi via several local buses that took 2 days to get me 300 km
Mysore was my next stop. It's a big, dirty, intriguing Indian city. There is lots to see here; from sandalwood oil and incense processing, to men sitting around in candle-lit street front rooms hammering out beautiful gold jewelry. There is a huge palace that occupies the center of town. Along those stairs to see the Big Cow, I saw quite a few people finger painting each step marking their individual design they sport on their forehead. There is so much to see here, I only wish I had stayed longer here. Maybe I'll go back.
Cochin came next. Since I left Goa, I met this Kiwi (New Zealander) and had been traveling with him on and off since. I ran into him as I took the picture of the nets on the beach. Cochin has interesting sights and history, like a synagogue built by original Jewish settlers and beautiful, winding, leafy roads that pass numerous churches, schools and cricket fields
Chris and I took an 8 hour boat ride to Kollam, near the tip of India. It made for great, beautiful scenery, relaxing time and 8 new friends, all of which I ran into further down the road. The Keralan (state of India I took the boat through) backwaters reminded me a lot of the swamp back home in Louisiana, except here palm trees replace cypress trees and back home there is much less development and little naked brown children.
At the end of the boat ride, I made connections, city to city, to get to Madurai. Madurai is a city famous for its Sri Meenakshi temple - an enormous complex of towers, arches, larger than life Hindu deities, and carnival-style methods of worship. I saw people throwing wads of butter at statues, statues partially burning (butter as fuel), ashes being repeatedly tossed at Ganesh statues, lots of finger painting, chalk-marking, touching with fingers and heads (floors, stairs, statues, whatever), and of course chanting and blessing elephants. All this at the crack of dawn, I can't fathom what goes on in the more popular times to worship.