Theresa "Terry" Nichols

Traveling Terry

Theresa "Terry" Nichols

I thrive on travel. I love to put myself in situations that knock me in the head, shake me up, force me to bless the moment of misunderstanding or of revelation. These times come easily when I travel. I've wandered India, Central America, and Southeast Asia, and I am thankful to the hundreds of people along the way who have eased my passage, delighted my senses, touched my heart. I love to share these journeys, because these special moments are not just for me, but for my friends, family, and vicarious travelers alike. I shall do my best to embrace and convey the experiences that on some level speak to us all.

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai October 16th 2019

My good friend Rengasamy arranged for me to attend an evening of his native village’s annual festival. Pudupatty is about 11/2 hours drive from Madurai, so I hired a taxi and arrived about 4:30 pm to music blasting through the village. People milled about, getting ready for the evening’s events. Mr. Sathis, the village president, welcomed me to the village with a flower garland. He showed me the deities that would soon be carried through the streets of the village. A group of shiny metal deities were decked out in flowers and looked quite cozy on their platform swing inside a small temple. Nearby a palanquin was under construction. Men would carry this large box covered in flowers using the two horizontal poles beneath. A man from Madurai who specializes in the cart construction was placing ... read more
Carrying the Mulaipari Pots
Drummers making a big Noise
Kolum Artist

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai October 11th 2019

I really enjoy “hanging” with an auto rickshaw driver I met last year, Anand. He loves hauling foreigners around Madurai, showing them the least visited places, especially outside the city. This morning I asked him to take me to the Narasimha Temple nearby, a very old temple with a lion-headed deity. I’ve visited him before, and the deity has always captured my heart when I stare at his black head and powerful eyes. But it was the journey there and back that gave the surprises. The early morning light was just right on a nearby temple situated on a bed of granite. “Stop stop! The light is good!” We pulled over and I began snapping photos of the buildings. Then I noticed several men moving about in the open area beyond. They were setting up the ... read more
playing with the threads
Keep it straight
Animated conversation with the farmer

Asia » India » Kerala » Periyar National Park October 9th 2019

The goal was to experience the Kerala Thekkady area, including the Periyar National Park and Wildlife Preserve, in a budget friendly and authentic way. So when Sumod, a man I met on the streets of Kumily suggested this “option,” I thought, “that sounds fun.” But I had little idea what to expect. That’s okay, because that’s what I like about travel. Not knowing what to expect. It’s the best way because then anything can happen! And everything always works out, somehow. Sumod met me on the darkened street at 5:00 AM outside my homestay. We walked to the bus station, where our daily 5:15 AM bus was predictably late. This Kerala government bus makes a daily run to a faraway village, traveling through a portion of the Periyar National Park. We sped off into the dark ... read more
Strangler fig
The first of five buses I rode
houses in the hills

Asia » India » Kerala » Thekkady October 2nd 2019

First there was the matter of negotiating the price of the Jeep tour. Actually I hadn’t intended on doing the “jungle tour” with any of the jeep drivers hawking their offerings to visitors in the Thekkady area. But the two guys across the street waved a brochure at me and I checked it out. In broken English they offered the full or the half day tour, and showed photos of animals such as elephants and the wildly colored Malabar squirrel that tourists could see on the tour. I declined the full day, noting its 188 km length which was far too much bouncing in a jeep for me. But I did express interest in the half day and started walking away thinking about when I could do it. “Okay, last price 1800 rupees,” he called after ... read more
Snacks at the Viewpoint
A “Wild” Water Buffalo Seen on our Jungle Safari

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai September 29th 2019

A friend invited me to stay at his house with his mother. It is located about six kilometers from the heart of Madurai, the Meenakshi Temple. I accepted his offer, even though transportation to the city interior can be a challenge, since buses are infrequent and I instead need to call a taxi. But participating in an Indian family’s household in a neighborhood is worth the inconvenience. Their small apartment is tucked into a row of interlocking, identical units, each with a balcony and a pullout on the first level for parking a scooter, motorcycle, or car. Yesterday a cow had parked himself in one of the pullouts of a nearby house and looked very comfortable munching its cud near the doorstep. Dogs roam the streets. Most are friendly, but two males took a dislike to ... read more
Umbrella and puddle
Cow Poop Decoration
Cow in the Street!

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai September 20th 2019

“I don’t want to die!” That’s what I screamed when my driver Muthu decided to make me happy by turning around on the highway and heading back to a temple that I had spotted. He was driving me from Auroville to Madurai. As always, I had my eyes peeled for interesting temples along the road. I’ve got a weakness for Ayyanar temples, and through the low scrub trees I saw the telltale horses rearing into the sky. I was in the backseat, friend Vinod was in the front with Muthu. Vinod had been driving when I spotted the sculptures and casually said, “Ayyanar.” “You want to see?” Muthu asked. “It’s too much trouble. Never mind.” I saw there was no place to cross the median to go back on the other side of the four-lane highway, ... read more
A Helper Deity
Ayyanar’s Vehicle, the Horse
Beautiful Large Terracotta Horses

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Auroville September 7th 2019

Auroville. It’s a place unto itself, belonging to no one in particular, instead belonging to “humanity as a whole.” I first visited this place in 1974, six years after its founding when it was still a dusty landscape. They were building something. It was so unremarkable I can’t remember much. Just that there wasn’t much here. Now, after massive erosion control and the planting of over 2 million trees, the place is a shady oasis. It covers an area of over 20 square kilometers, containing villages and guest houses, cafes, schools, learning centers, workshops, stores, residential spaces, and public buildings of astounding and eclectic architecture. My rented electric bicycle zooms me around the place. I get lost as I weave along dirt paths and paved roads, but I always end up somewhere. Google Map is my ... read more
A Standing “Harp”
The Matrimandir: the glue of the community
I Love my Electric Bicycle

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Mamallapuram August 27th 2019

“They look like vultures, not eagles.” My driver Muthu and I were viewing a sign commemorating the spot where the priests used to feed the “eagles” that came daily to the hilltop temple of Thirukalukundram. “No, no, they are eagles,” he insisted. After all, the temple’s name includes a shortened version of the Tamil word for eagle, “kalugu.” The sign depicted a priest feeding two white birds whose heads looked very much like vultures. And from my later internet research, I learned that they were indeed Egyptian vultures. Everyday since “forever,” a pair came to this place to receive the food offerings. But for the last 15 years they haven’t come. It would have been nice to see the birds and the feeding. Nonetheless, Muthu and I trudged up the 539 steps to visit the small ... read more
the tank seen from the top of the hill
Buying flowers in bulk
husband and wife split banana leaves

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Mamallapuram August 23rd 2019

Saravanan had just arrived on his motorcycle as I was returning from dinner to his guest house. His face looked tense. “You know my dog Daniel, he got in a fight with other dogs when I was away on vacation. For two weeks he was wandering around injured, but no one could catch him. So when I returned, I found him on the beach limping along with a huge wound on his neck. There were flies all over it, it smelled, and he could barely walk to me.” His troubled tone told me things were not so good with Daniel. “I thought he wouldn’t make it. But I called the doctor and she took him to a shelter and cleaned the wound and kept him there to heal. I had hoped that he would come back ... read more
Veterinary nurse and volunteer Elaine Philpot removes the old bandage
Elaine inspects the wound
Bandaged and secured.  Maybe.

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu February 6th 2019

“You’re very young.” That’s the first thing I said to Vinod when I met him in the Fortune Pandyan Hotel in Madurai. Then I noticed his eyes with the long eyelashes. He did smile, I believe, when I said he was very young. I needed an experienced driver for my three-day trip. This 29 year-old has been driving since he was 16. Good enough for me. Plus, those eyes. After I explained my plan to go to non-tourist destinations like Dindigul, Salem, Mallur, and Mohanur to see the small and unusual temples, and searching on the Google map on my IPhone screen for locations, and trying to plot a route, he and I got tired of planning. “We can plan the first day, then after that we’ll plan the next,” he wisely said. Great idea. I’m ... read more
Pachaiamman Temple at Keelapuliyur
Terry and the Guardians
Villaiyandavar Temple at Anaikarai

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