Monday, 16 February 2009
Well, I suppose the news is that I'm still in India. Both Leana and I have decided to head North from Chennai, in the direction of Nepal. Two months ago I was charging down this coast in a Southerly direction, mostly along the highways as I was in somewhat of a hurry. In some of the towns we've even stayed in the same crumby lodges which I'd occupied a couple of months ago - didn't expect to see those places again. Now we're travelling in a more relaxed fashion, and where possible have deviated onto smaller roads along the coast and through endless rural villages and towns. We've lost our way a few times, mostly due to the inventive nature of local directions. And now, the real news story: We were stopped and interviewed by local newspaper reporters every day for about 5 consecutive days. Most of those reporters were apparently working for the biggest-selling daily newspaper in this state - Andhra Pradesh. (I can just imagine the editor receiving yet another photo of us and exclaiming "Oh No - not these 2 again!"). However, people started running up to us with newspapers so we could see the reports, and the attached 4 pictures seem to be from 4 different papers (although I have no idea what is written there). To crown it all, when we arrived in the town of Tuni 2 days ago we were stopped in the main street by the TV News (causing an immediate traffic jam). We were filmed and interviewed by the local Andhra TV channel, as well as by TV5. The next day people were asking for autographs and offering us fruit along the road. Now we're taking a rest in the port city of Visakhapatnam, about half way between Chennai and Kolkata on India's East coast. Daily distances cycled since Chennai are:- Nayadupeta 118 km; Kavali 130 km; Ongole 71 km; Voderevu Beach 70 km; Challapalle 96 km; Narasapuram 128 km; Yanam 79 km; Tuni 105 km; Visakhapatnam 109 km. Total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town is 35 656 km.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
India is roughly comprised of 28 states and a few other territories, each with it's own unique character. Just about every state has it's own predominant local language, besides Hindi which is commonly spoken all over the country. The place-names are often a reflection of the local tongue. Here in the populous South-eastern state of Tamil Nadu, some of the names can be tricky tongue-twisters (see "daily distances" at the end of this post). It's not surprising then that locals refer to many of these places by abbreviated names, which in itself can be tricky when asking for directions. The food as well is distinctive, and locals take pride in their famed South-Indian dishes - to which I've rather taken a liking (fortunately for me the food is cheap). Tamil Nadu state has many temples and other holy sites, which often consist of beatiful elaborately decorated structures in the "Dravidian" style (such as in the region of cities like Thiruchirappalli and Madurai) (see top picture). The town of Mamallaporam is a world heritage site due to it's ancient rock-carved temple (see second picture) and other structures, as well as being a laid-back beach haven for travellers. Since leaving Cape Comorin we've woven our way, often on back roads, via many of these places of interest. On the back roads the traffic is not that hectic, and one sees more of village life such as the practice of spreading harvested sheaves of rice in the road to be threshed by the traffic (I also did my part in the process). We even deviated to the small coastal village of Pichavaram, where we took a row-boat on the backwater channels amongst the mangroves. This village, as well as many others along this section of coastline, are still in the process of rebuilding after the devastating tsunami of 26 Dec 2004. We also spent a day or 2 in the former French territory of Pondicherry, where the "flavour of France" is still very evident. For the past few days Leana and I have cycled apart, but then (inevitably) more than once we ended up at the same place at night as budget accommodation in peak season is rather limited. Now we're both in Chennai, staying at a very interesting old travellers favourite lodge (see bottom picture). I'm not sure where I'll be going from here (I'm even considering hitching a ride on a ship to Thailand, but my initial enquiries don't make me very optimistic about this option). My options are further limited by finances which are in a rather desparate state (please see my request at top r-hand side of page). Daily distances cycled since Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin) have been:- Tirunelveli 83 km; Sattur 83 km; Madurai 81 km; Tirupattur 70 km; Pudukottai 58 km; Thiruchirappalli 55 km; Thanjavur 63 km; Mayiladuthurai 78 km; Pichavaram 58 km; Pondicherry 93 km; Mamallaporam 102 km; and Chennai 66 km. Total distance cycled since Cape Town is 34 750 km.