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Published: February 20th 2012
Ruth and I woke at 3.30am and were checked out and in a cab to the airport by 3.45am the trip at this time of the morning was fast and hassle free. We both leave from the same terminal at Delhi Airport which is a real bonus. On arrival we checked in Ruth's bags for her Singapore flight then lodged mine for Chennai which took significantly longer. I then walked Ruth to passport control we said our semi sad farewell as I know she is keen to go home and then watched her through the glass until she moved beyond and out of sight.
I then headed to domestic departures (where I met my girlfriend LOL) and made my way though having a few moments panic when I forgot to retrieve my small pack after putting it through the scanner. I was almost at the gate when I realised so I sprinted back to where I left it and was accosted by security who began lecturing me, not really necessary as I felt stupid as it was. I then headed for my gate, I was the only one there when they started boarding, but soon the plane began to fill
up, the last person on was sitting in front of me, first he tried to jam a huge bloody bag into the luggage rack which crushed everyone else’s belongings and then he immediately laid his seat back. I napped a little on this flight so it was soon over and I had swapped the chilly madness of Delhi for the humid madness of Chennai.
When I disembarked I messaged Padraic to see if he was in Chennai or already in Madurai, fortunately (for me) he had been bumped from a flight and was sitting in the lounge so I joined him there and spent the next four hours drinking beer, eating little sandwiches and muffins and chatting. Finally at 2.30pm we boarded a small forty seat aircraft and banked out over the ocean heading for Tamil Nadu's second largest city.
Madurai is a surprisingly peaceful and a very clean city (compared to those in the North), I saw very few cows and dogs and the ones I did see appear to be in much better condition as well. We were met at the airport by our new driver and visited the fantastic five hundred year old Tirumalai Nayak
Palace that had been partially and tactfully restored. The Mariamman Teppakkulam Tank (artificial lake) with a pretty temple in the centre was our next destination it is generally dry and used by the local kids as a cricket pitch but due to a recent festival we found it full of water and finally the massive and gaudy Sri Meenakshi Temple it is by far the most impressive Hindu temple complex I have seen and a World Heritage site. We walked around the temple for sometime taking snaps it was surprisingly clean inside and the complex was very interesting although I was disappointed to see a temple elephant that looked in poor condition.
It was then on to the hotel I had pre-booked, unfortunately there was no room for Padraic so the driver took him somewhere else. We caught up for dinner on the roof later, the food was quite good but the mosquitoes where menacing.
The next morning we were packed up and on the road by 9am, the driver had over slept (as they do) and I wasn't happy so I let his boss know about it and he soon arrived and we began the long drive
to Ooty. The traffic here is light, the sky is blue, there is little garbage strewn about and the cows don’t appear to be eating plastic, I am truly amazed. The weather is also dry like Adelaide so I am in my element.
We drove for five or six hours arriving in mountainous Coonoor in the Western Ghats around 3.30pm the last hour in the mountains was extremely picturesque and I saw a different species of Langur monkey which was a bit of a surprise. On arrival at the station we booked tickets on the toy train to Ooty (Udhagamandalam), all the first class tickets were booked out so we had to put up with cattle class, fortunately it was a short trip and not very interesting I must admit I had expected nicer views. Ooty is a hill station set up by the British in the early 1800's as a cool summer haven, and it is easy to see why, it is pleasant here and although it has grown since the days of the British it hasn’t lost all its charm with many a pretty church. Padraic and I wandered down to the main part of town for
dinner I grabbed some drugs for my stomach and some great homemade chocolate which they sell everywhere. We stopped for a pleasant dinner before returning to the hotel.
The next morning we moved on to the National Park at Mudumalai it was a short drive, so we had most of the day to wait till we went into the park in the late afternoon, so we just watched the cricket in the lodge's entertainment area and enjoyed the relaxing natural setting, there are quite a few monkeys here and some pretty birds.
At 3.30pm we headed for the park where we were loaded on a noisy old bus and driven around for about thirty minutes and saw nothing, this of course made me extremely angry so I tried to find another way to get in and see another tiger, unfortunately there is no other way, and they rarely see any major wildlife here. We then watched some villages bathing their elephants in the river before returning to the lodge.
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