Friday, August 25, 2006

Tamil Nadu by Motorcycle: Greetings! Sorry no photos this time as I'm not able to upload. So, at the beginning of August, I rode approximately 1,000 kms by motorcycle. From Cochin I traveled up into the Western Ghats to a hill station called Munnar. It exists primarily because of the tea grown in the area. Did some hiking. After a few days there it was south to Kumili near the The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary which is an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking drive through mountains, cardamom groves, and tea estates. It's monsoon, so I bought rain gear and needed it as it was wet. Then headed east into Tamil Nadu. Moved out of the mountains very quickly into a vast plain that is hot and dry and desert like. Headed for Madurai.

Madurai or the "city of nectar" is the oldest and second largest city of Tamil Nadu (about 1.1million). It's an animated city packed with pilgrims, beggars, business people, bullock carts and legions of underemployed rickshaw- wallahs. Dating about 2500 years back in time, it is one of southern India's oldest cities. The Meenakshi Hindu temple, covers a vast area and is an eclectic mix of architectural styles. It is dedicated to Meenakshi, the consort of Lord Shiva and is one of the most important places of Hindu pilgrimages. The temple is splendid and I really enjoyed my time at the temple and walking around the city.

Changed plans in Madurai and instead of going east to Pondicherry on the Bay of Bengal headed south to Kanyakumari (referred as the 'Land's End' of India). Here, the Bay of Bengal confluences with the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. You can watch the sun rise as well as the sunset and the moon rise. It, too, is an important revered pilgrim centre. The sea is fairly rough, so it is entertaining to watch it beat itself against the rocks and then subside, before it gathers itself up for another attack. The clouds in the sky, because it is monsoon time were dramatic. I had wanted to go here because I had been in Ladakh in the far north so being at the southern most tip, completed my trip. From here I rode up the west coast back into Kerala and stayed at Varkala Beach one night (it rained cats and dogs that night) and then returned to Cochin.