Writing this on the Bangalore Express (Started it there, anyhow).
Thing in Chennai worth noting: We picked up two extras to the group in Chennai, and I feel bad not mentioning them before. JP is a retired Canadian now living in India permanently, who is clearly extremely knowledgable about all things India and the railway. Jeg is an Indian Sikh, born and raised in Chennai who is extremely friendly and easy to talk with. Both are great additions to our merry band.
Rameswaram was quite a ride. At this point, everyone is sort of beyond the general fatigue of the trip and into a state of giggly delirium. We hit the South Eastern coast of India impressively, going over the Pambam Bridge (Thank you Steve for the name), a location so compelling Troy insisted that he would be coming back here to take more photos.
There was never any real hand-holding throughout this trip with regards to where to go or how to get there, which at times was a breath of fresh air for me, and at times was frustrating, but by this point, the group has become such a well oiled machine that all we require is three or maybe four people to know the name of what our next location will be and we break up into the appropriate number of groups to facilitate getting there. This has made for some exciting excursions for those of us who didn’t catch the name of a hotel, restaurant or town, and none more exciting than our departure here. We see Mark and Jason squeezing themselves quite badly into the smallest horse carriage I have ever seen.
“What do you think, man?” Troy asks.
“Think about what?” I look further down the street and notice a line of carriages, enough for pretty much all of us, two at a time.
Neither of us knew where we were headed, but we hopped on anyway. Our driver (who told us his name was “Money” and when asked what the parade-float looking thing was ahead of us replied “Tourist.”) acted as if he was out to win a race to… wow, I hope he knows where we are going. Did someone tell him? Because he is beating all the other drivers…
He deposits us in front of a hotel that looks like it is being renovated. There are no people nearby. This might be the least populated spot in the whole city. I waited anxiously for another 30 seconds before I see another buggy coming. Some of us turn tail when we see the hotel to look for better digs, but those of us more adventurous (or perhaps lazy) stick around to see what we can negotiate. As it turns out, they had a nice little room for us to throw our bags in for the day.
We headed out to a large Hindu temple we saw on our way through. If it is not the centerpiece of the entire town, I would be shocked. Inside were a lot of hallways to walk through, one strip dedicated to hawker stalls, and two elephants.
I’m a little unsure of what to feel at this point. On one hand, I understand that the treatment of these animals is 88% likely to be well below what I would call nice, ethical, fair treatment. On the other hand, the spectacle of watching these amazing creatures being given a bath was not something I could ignore. I felt really lucky to have randomly caught this happening.
Outside the temple, Steve discovered his sandals were gone, and resolved to go buy some new ones. Troy decided to take Todd and I on a long walk in search of a bar. We found a liquor store instead, where we bought some “MGM” brand vodka. Tired after the walk, we ran into a newly sandaled Steve, and headed back to the hotel to lick our wounds. At the hotel we found what had to have been the only bar in town. It was in our crappy hotel. When we got there, we discovered the ladies had already started, so we bought a few beers and tucked in. Slowly, most of the group made their way to this bar, even the ones who turned their nose up at the hotel in the first place, reaffirming my suspicion that this was the town’s only bar.
Anyway, we got drunk. Not sloshed, hammered, sh*t faced. We didn’t even drink our crappy new bottles of vodka, we just got good old fashioned more-than-we-should-have-drank sort of drunk. It was necessary. Tensions felt released, we knew our days were numbered, and the group was loosening up. There wasn’t much drinking to speak of before this, or at least not as a group. It felt like the right thing to do, until you consider we had to be up at 4AM the next morning.
I got a shower in, we headed back to the station, thankfully not by buggy, and we headed off to Kanyakumari to get some beach time in hot-as-hell south India.