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February 1st 2006
Published: February 4th 2006
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Raveshwaran -- Typhoon DestructionRaveshwaran -- Typhoon DestructionRaveshwaran -- Typhoon Destruction

Town completely destroyed by typhoon in 1964
Pondicherry and Mamallapuram. Setting up for spending the weekend in Chennai.

Since I am word-deficient, here is what Jan had to say:

I'm woefully behind at this, but it's been a jam packed trip. We
were still in Madurai when I sent my last. Forgot to mention we were
all blessed by the temple elephant there. For Rs. 10, she rests the
end of her trunk on the top of your head, sometimes patting and
sometimes slightly rocking. We had many encounters and conversations with pilgrims and tourists alike. Will add specific comments to photos when I get that together.

John -- I mean Hambone (he says only his mother and I call him John)
-- and I have made several valiant attempts to transfer my photos to
his portable hard drive, but it won't talk to my camera. My photos
will have to wait until I get back to Santa Fe. Be sure to check his
travel blog (link in my first installment).

When we left the temple I went to the shop of a tailor who had been
pitching us when we arrived. He was still waiting when we came out
several hours later. I
Raveshwaran -- 1 Room SchoolRaveshwaran -- 1 Room SchoolRaveshwaran -- 1 Room School

Teacher teaching grades 1 and 2 in outdoor clas
decided that if he had good fabrics, I'd save
time and order some things without any comparison shopping. I needed lighter weight clothes for the hotter weather we were headed for. He had good silks and silk blends, so I ordered four shirts, a skirt and
two pairs of pants for about $15 each -- they were delivered to our
hotel at 8 that evening. Way more stuff than I "needed".

The palace in
Madurai was closed by the time we got organized and ready to go, so
we missed that. The "tank" turned out to be a huge sacred pool, with
temple in the middle. We arrived just before sunset. It seemed to
be a hang out place --lots of people and plenty of street vendors. I
didn't see any other Westerners. We watched men building what we
later learned were raft frames for a ceremony coming up a few days
later, where deities are floated around the tank. When it got dark
swarms of mosquitos and other flying insects appeared. I
miraculously escaped unbit, but not Hugh. We strolled most of the
way around the tank, talking to people who had various fluency in
English.

We
Indian TrainsIndian TrainsIndian Trains

Man at a train station
had dinner that evening at a rooftop restaurant in the same
neighborhood as our hotel. We invited Victoria, a young Australian
woman who was alone, to join us. She is on a six week trip and had
just finished the first half at a yoga retreat. She told us about
the devotees of the "hugging mama", a fairly famous spiritual leader
-- sorry, I don't remember her name. Victoria was continuing on her
own, travelling through the South.

Next morning we were up bright and early. It was another noisy night
at the hotel, and overnight the lobby was emptied of its contents
(??). Breakfast was the usual disorganized affair with three or four
"waiters" managing to get not much right. We've decided that The
Duke is the Fawlty Towers of South India. We hired a taxi to take us
to Manamadurai. The train tracks are down between here and there.
We had about an hour wait there before our train to Rameswaram, a
city of about 38,000, located on a narrow penninsula that is the
closest land to Sri Lanka. We had about a three hour train ride and
played poker to pass the time. Hambone and William disagreed about
the rules for five card draw -- I think we ended up using Hambone's.

Like Madurai, Rameswaram has an ancient temple complex, but is
visited mostly by pilgrims, not tourists. After studying our Lonely
Planet guide book we had two hotel choices: a pilgrim hotel on the
beach, and a small hotel in town, just up the street from the North
entrance to the temple. We chose the latter, then found out pretty
much the only restaurant in town was at the beach hotel, so we walked
back over there. The guide books accurately describe this as having
all the charm of a school cafeteria. Lunch was a buffet of typical
vegetarian fare, after which we walked up the beach and watched
pilgrims ritually bathing in the sea -- the last of a circuit of
"baths", starting in the temple. From there we headed to the temple
itself. We quickly learned that certain parts of the temple were off
limits for photography and others for both photography and
non-Hindus. We wandered around the perimeter to a long corridor
overlooking a large sacred pool. Hugh and I walked along the edge
which had a tall metal fence, except for a stone tower-type structure
that projected into the tank. We walked out to that and were happily
shooting away when one of the temple attendants showed up with a
bucket and started hoisting water up from the pool and pouring it
over the heads of a small group of pilgrims. They all acted like
Hugh and I weren't there -- great photo op. The next attendant,
leading a throng, shooed us away. We spent the rest of the afternoon
there photographing and just watching the activities.

David, one of the hotel employees, was very attentive to us during
our whole stay. He bought some beer somewhere and we all sat up on
the hotel roof and watched the sunset light play on the temples.
Dinner was back at the cafeteria, with more of the same food, and we
all went to bed early. One of our guide books warns that a drawback
to hotels in our location was the early morning broadcast of
chanting. This turns out to be a collossal understatement. From
4:30 to dawn Tamil chanting blares, making it hard to think, much
less sleep, if you're within a half mile radius of the place.
William
Mammallapuram -- TemplesMammallapuram -- TemplesMammallapuram -- Temples

Temple carved from one rock
couldn't take it and decided he wanted to go see the the
fishing harbor. I was getting pretty stressed by it all too, so went
along. That turned into a disaster -- tup tup trip to a totally
deserted dock, with no way back but at the mercy of the guy who
brought us there. We lost the high decibel torture, but traded that
for olfactory torture from the extreme dead fish smell (there are
times when my poor sense of smell is a blessing). I think William
felt like it was some Twilight Zone nightmare. On top of everything
else he was already suffering from an upset stomach before anything


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Mammallapuram -- TemplesMammallapuram -- Temples
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Gals visting temple


6th February 2006

Am glad you're having a great time!!
Hi, Am glad you're all having a wonderful time and i bet people over there are excited to c u. We miss you back home though, Keep having fun. Muthoni.

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