01.29.2013 - 01.31.2013
i am finally, finally here.
i flew from kathmandu to delhi then straight to chennai (madras). what a dump! as the fourth-largest city in india, i shouldn't have been surprised. but after getting ripped off by the prepaid taxi (yes, apparently it's possible) and into my shady hotel on the busiest street in the city, i immediately made a plan to get out. everything was gray and the sound of horns honking became white noise within hours, as that's ALL you hear. i saw no tourists, which was fine, but i felt as if there were only indian men looking on as i walked around, so i made it an early night and had a quick dinner near the hotel, which, at $12/ night, was a fine rip-off. the next day, i tried mailing things home (but do i really need to keep all this trekking gear?? i still have it with me and can't decide), only to find that the stuff needs to be specially wrapped by a tailor, who was 12km across the city of dishonest cab drivers (according to lonely planet) and then costs $50/ km. no, thank you.
off to figure out the initially difficult and confusing train situation. after about an hour of wandering around and asking nearly everyone i ran into where the tourist ticket counter was, i finally found it and, despite having already paid for a second night there, booked the first night train out of there for $3! i met a nigerian-italian, John, who was excellent company. being more of an expert on the matter, as he'd spent the last 3 months in southern india, he informed me that Chennai was the worst city he'd been to to date. we wandered around all day, chatting about india and nepal (he's eventually headed there). it was very interesting watching the locals, as apparently they have a particular disdain for Nigerians, who are believed to be untrustworthy and bad based upon only a handful of wrong-doers. despite that, i still felt like fewer people harassed me than they would have had i been alone (though instead they harassed John... ah well, annoyance deflected. i'll take it). we ran into some people at a little stand where we had tea (for 7 Rs, about 10 cents and oh-so-good... this is the life) and, all men, they never looked at me and only asked me some questions after finding out that john and i were just friends. though they knew it was impossible for us to have been married as we both look so different. was very interesting to hear them all agree.
in the streets: dogs, cats, cows, and some goats. motorcycles, rickshaws, autorickshaws, pedestrians, cars, buses, cart of all sorts.
also in the streets: plastic, cow dung, men's piss (the world is their toilet, wow), spilled food, dust. i wore sandals and came back with black feet. so gross, but so gratifying to see the before and after washing.
at 8.50pm, we found my train (john is headed north) to Madurai, an 8 or so hour long ride. i got the top bunk and because there was no room for my bag under the bottom bunk, i had to sleep with it. for those of you who have been on one, there is NO room for a bag and a person. ah, well. i was so tired that i fell asleep by 9.30pm. i woke up and heard 'madurai' on the speaker at the station, and the man in the bunk nearby said it was Madurai, so i nearly fell off and knocked a woman out with my bag racing off the train. as it started to move again, i asked the man standing in the door of the train if this was madurai station. nope, heehee, it's in about an hour. HA! nice. i have learned to ask questions all the time.
i arrived in Madurai at 6.30am this morning. i've seen the most beautiful temple, so colorful and ornate and detailed. again, pics to come. it is 2pm and i feel i am ready to be in a still quieter place. so tomorrow i will take a train to Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India, for a beautiful sunset and sunrise. the train is open seating, so i'm not sure what to expect from a train with benches in a country that has very different ideas of personal space. ah well, it is only 5 hours. until then, i think i will head back to the temple for some nice sunset peace and quiet. and street food. mmmmm
i have been so lucky thus far, meeting great people and feeling like all these minor setbacks are just that: minor. thank you, yoga.
namaste, until the next city,