Friday, 18 July 2008


The train ride out of Rameswaram was easy, relaxing and as the sun went down we headed into an electrical storm.

Now, being inside a large metal box, on big metal wheels rolling along a big metal track made me wonder…do trains get hit by lightening?

The storm itself was glorious! For a few milliseconds at a time the dark of night was replaced by the sheer brilliance of light, intense as the midday sun, illuminating the view all the way to the horizon. On occasion as I looked out of the window I saw bolts of lightening piercing the dark, rain heavy, menacing clouds.

By the tine the train got into the station it had been down pouring for 20 minutes and this being southern India during the monsoon it meant lots of water! Luckily I was able to get a rickshaw to my hotel only 500 metres away. Getting out of the taxi I discovered that the courtyard entrance was now one huge puddle deep enough to get the bottom of my ¾ length trousers soaking wet! On the plus side there is a restaurant and more importantly a bar attached to the hotel. The other nice feature is that all the rooms are set around a small and shady courtyard.

The next day was a day for doing nothing (I know…again!!!) and getting all my clothes laundered. I also pretended that I was in fact a highly skilled and well trained solider (you should be able to work that out).

On Sunday I decided to go and look at a few temples here in Trichy or Tiruchirappalli as it should be called, not that I’ve got any chance of pronouncing that! As one of the temples requires you to ascend nearly 500 steps I arrived outside the entrance of the Rock Temple just after 8am. It’s called the rock temple because it is on top of a rock 83 metres in height. (Sometimes things are very obvious)

With my shoes off I made my way up, passing the resident temple elephant by a wide margin (ever since I saw a temple elephant go on the rampage a few weeks ago on “the world’s most amazing videos” I’ve decided that they are all mentally unstable and liable to run amok at anytime). There are two temples at the top and as I ain’t no Hindu I wasn’t allowed in either…phew, lucky escape! The views from the top of the rock would have been really good except that someone went and built a temple right on top of the best vantage point!

The second temple I went to was a mile or two away across the Cauvery River. The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is huge covering over 60 hectares and has seven concentric walled sections or enclosures. The temple construction started in the 10th century and the last piece of building work was finished at the end of the 20th. The 1st six enclosures are filled with houses, shops, hawkers, beggars and the usual clutter of Indian life. Walking down the central road, going under each highly painted and multi sculptural gateway it felt like my first real experience of temple life. Not like the dead and sterile temples of Hampi or the small singular temples that had failed to impress me in most of the towns I’ve already been in.
At the final enclosure with money paid, shoes off and guide hired I had a good look around. Inside there are several temples each one reflecting one of the ten reincarnations of Vishnu. The central gold covered temple (1800 kilos of gold used) was completely off limits to non believers. However you are allowed to stand near the entrance and have a quick peek.

Interesting fact number 1346: the Tamil alphabet has 246 letters!

In the evening there was another downpour but as I really really really wanted a pizza it was a case of rain jacket and flip flops on. The few hundred metres to the pizza place was just enough to get me completely soaked from the hem of the jacket down. Whilst it’s always fun to walk in the rain, here in Trichy (as with most of India) street lighting is at its best minimal. So it’s always hard to judge how deep the water is as it flows like rivers down the road. It’s at this point that you remember the fact that half the water is gushing out of the semi covered street drains, or sewers as I like to call them and the “scent of India” starts to rise up and say hello to your nostrils.

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