South India Solo

Trip Start Aug 21, 2003
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Trip End Ongoing


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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

The south of India seems so different from the north; the people are friendly, the landscape is beautiful and the beaches are pristine. I am now traveling alone, as Lauren decided to go home. I wanted to keep going to experience solo travel and to see the sights of the south. I miss Lauren dearly, but I must say I am having a great time going solo. Being alone makes for many more opportunities to meet interesting people and change my mind on a whim. I have met more people out here than I can count, sometimes I'll make a friend and we'll travel together for a day or so or until our itineraries branch. I continue to be reunited with people I've met and last seen hundreds of kilometers away.

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. They date between 600 - 1000 C.E. (A.D.) and are devoted mostly to Buddhism, lesser to Hinduism and a few are shrines to Jainism. These caves are a definite highlight to my trip to India, especially the Ajanta caves because their main feature is art in the form of painting instead of sculpture. You don't see much ancient painting in India. Thanks to having been forgotten and rediscovered by the British in the late 1800's they remain minimally vandalized.

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. It was worth it though, I loved Hampi. There is nothing I have ever seen that is similar to this place. If I had to provide an analogy, I'd say it's a cross between Roman ruins, and a landscape similar to Arches National Park in southern Utah, with distinct central Indian influence. It was a huge capital that had its peak in 1332 C.E. I did lots of hiking and bicycling here.

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. One gets a good, wholesome, joyous feeling being here.

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.
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South India Tourism on

All the images are really beautiful of this South India Tour and after seeing this i also want to visit this historical place.

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