Thursday October 12.
I already left on Tuesday morning, but arrived a day later due to a Lufthansa flight change and not exactly the best places in the plane. After breakfast I go into the center with a tuk tuk to explore Fort Kochi, India. This small town has a rich history and has changed owners several times over the centuries. The local kingdoms did business with the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English. Remnants of this are still visible, but the Chinese fishing nets on the waterfront are the most striking. The international group tour, with 8 people, through the south starts on Saturday. First take the train north to admire a tea plantation near Coonoor. A few days later we leave the minivan for a canter, a kind of open bus, to look for this beautiful cat in the tiger reserve. We bump along the dirt roads and see quite a few elephants and deer. Unfortunately the tiger does not show itself.
In Mysore we visit the Sri Chamundeshwari Temple on top of the mountain. Since it is festival time, many, many visitors. The queue to take a look inside is 3 hours and that is a bit too much for us. Go into the city and visit the enormous city palace with a local guide. There is a dance performance and the music is blaring from the speakers. Hand in your shoes at the entrance just like the thousands of others and then we can admire the beautiful finish in the palace. Because of the 10-day festival, the center is decorated with lights in the evening and everyone goes for a drive to see this, including us. Entire families on scooters, children on their laps, and walking through the streets at walking pace. Then the traffic gives way to an elephant parade and a free lane is created in the chaos. The palace is also equipped with lights and the music has even been turned up a notch. Even the locals are covering their ears.
The next day the beautiful old Somanathapura Temple, unfortunately all the noses were chopped off the thousands of statues during the Muslim occupation, but it is still impressive. Have dinner with a “local” family and then take the night train to the east. Quite an experience, especially because not everyone on the train takes others into account. We have a nice hotel in Mahabalipuram and we can relax for a while.
Although everything is within walking distance, we view the monolith temples by tuk tuk. It is special to see the beautifully carved temples and engravings in the red rock. A large round rock seems to balance on the sloping mountain wall and is called Krishna’s Butterball. Many fishing boats on the coast and unfortunately also a lot of waste.
In Pondicherry we enjoy the French influence and the coffee and sandwiches are very good. But a walk through the old colonial city should not be missed. We immerse ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the city with the cycle rickshaw in Madurai and walk through the banana market. All those types of bananas and other vegetables. The next day the shoes have to be taken off again and the cameras and mobile phones have to be handed in. Otherwise we will not be allowed to enter the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple. The entrance with the 9-storey towers is already spectacular, but the inside is also impressive. Lots of old sculptures. Beautiful.
Another visit to the Kerala backwaters with a homestay. A bit of sailing and enjoying the green banks and then back to Kochi. The 2-week southern trip is already over. The trip was beautiful, the hectic life was not too bad, but what made the trip especially fantastic was the cheerful company with a good sense of humor and last but not least our guide Garima who, despite having to regularly correct some Indians, led us the way every day with a broad, beaming smile, in this adventure.