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Published: February 27th 2009
Ornate rock carvings
Pondicherry when we arrived was quite different again to the other towns visited on this leg of the trip, the riksha drivers tried to charge well over the going rate and there seemed to be more people begging. The Park House hotel belongs to the Sri Aurobindo Society the body formed to run the Auroville project.
Our room and the hotel proved to be an oasis of calm by the sea after haggling and battling our way there. The hotel is run by the Ashram and has well kept lawned grounds you are encouraged to walk barefoot upon; the room was spotless with 3 single beds a good bathroom with shower and just 500 rupees a night for 3 of us.
Sue and George had not fared well on the journey and took to their beds again once we arrived and I dragged them to see the local doctor the next day for a professional opinion. He was unconcerned and prescribed bags of assorted drugs and ointments and more rest and within an hour of leaving their beds they were back again.
Pondicherry was the centre of the French foothold in India and wandering around the streets up from the seafront
it is easy to imagine you are in a french Mediterranean town rather than India. French can be heard everywhere from locals and ex pats alike and it is the first language you are questioned in when you venture into a shop or restaurant. There is a relaxed cosmopolitan artistic feel to the place and a good place to relax for a few days it's just a shame George and Sue weren't well enough to really appreciate it.
Auroville is an area north of Pondicherry, a series of satellite villages forming a community built around a central dome like a giant golf ball. It is an experiment in civilisation with people from all over the world living, working and contributing to the development of the project which was started back in the mid 60's
There is a central spiritual ethic but it is not overtly religious and the concept is aimed at being inclusive.
Aurevoir came all too soon and we made our way back to the bus stand to catch a local bus to Mamallapuram only a 2 hour trip and quite a doddle compared to previous sojourns.
Arriving at Mamallapuram people tried to occupy our seats as
The bus sped off
soon as we stood up so we barged pushed and jostled our way off the bus and were left on the roadside in a cloud of dust as the bus sped off to its next destination. When the dust settled we saw the smiling face of a local who introduced himself as Krishna; “like the god” he said. He recommended a hotel loaded us into a riksha and sat in front with the driver to take us there.
The hotel offered cheap rooms (300/350 rupees) and a pool and as the rooms were around the edge of a central open area you tended to get chatting to your neighbour, great for meeting fellow travellers. We were on the 1st floor and our neighbours were Chris from Bristol and Michel from Holland 2 guys who were good fun and we spent a couple of nights with.
One night in particular we ended up in our hotel bar (on the 1st floor) with the blinds drawn and by candlelight so's not to attract the police, sat on cushions by low tables, illicitly drinking, with a crowd who worked in local restaurants and a guy my age called Kumar from Bangalore who was
travelling around in a Morris Minor.
Mamallapuram is a small dusty town by the sea with poor roads and heavy traffic.
Its popularity is not due to the beach but to the ancient stone carvings and temples hewn into the rock escarpment that rises from the ground to look over the town and the surrounding countryside. There is a stone tableau quite unlike other ancient carvings found and there is consequently some debate as to its origin and meaning.
The town has is a fine sandy beach but local fishing boats dominate, no room for sunbeds, but there are some very nice beach side restaurants selling fresh seafood for the hungry tourist. It would be easy to spend a few days relaxing here it has a real village feel but we had our plane booked from Chennai on Saturday night so we bade farewell to Mamallapuram and headed for the airport from where we said goodbye to India, well for now anyway!
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