It’s been pretty busy here – this isn’t what I’d describe as a holiday!
We’re currently spending a couple of days in Thekkady, a small town in the Western Ghats, the mountains dividing Kerala and Tamil Nadu. By ‘we’ I mean myself and the others on the Aidcamp, a great group of people. We’ve had a hard week working at the gypsy school at Pettai, doing mural painting, gardening and waving at countless cheeky schoolkids, and yesterday we had a very long journey up to Thekkady from SCAD in a bus which, while designed to be comfortable for Indians, unfortunately meant it was phenomenally uncomfortable for a bunch of big Westerners with long legs.
We came up to Thekkady to see Periyar Wildlife Reserve, a reserve around a lake, home to elephants, tigers, monkeys, and masses of other flora and fauna. We took a three-hour hike this morning through some of the reserve, and failed to see any elephants or tigers, but saw some monkeys, a giant squirrel, and more birds than you can shake a stick at. Our guide was a bit of a twitcher so kept randomly stopping and pointing into the trees in the direction of some small bird that would then promptly fly off. Bird watching? What is that all about?! Mind you, getting up is easy here – the mosque calls the town to prayer at 5:30 a.m – and everyone can hear it.
So after I flew down to Trivandrum (state capital of Kerala) from Bombay, I was in the hotel on my own until the rest of the Aidcamps volunteers arrived, and took a quick walk through the streets around the hotel. Trivandrum is not a big tourist town – most tourists heading to Kovalam pass through it – so when I was out I was the only white person I could see. India for a first-timer is quite something – masses of people everywhere you look, buses, cows, Ambassador cars, motorbikes, goats, dogs, open drains, small shops, dirt and litter, car horns constantly being blown, insane traffic, and no spare space anywhere. I took a ten minute walk, got back to the hotel, ordered two boiled eggs and a pot of tea, and promptly freaked out.
It has since got easier, but every so often, India just makes you want to shut your eyes and have it all go away, as beautiful a place as it is, and as generous and curious as so many of the people are. When we took a quick trip to Tirunelveli the other day (for the ladies to buy Saris from Pothy’s, where I also got a dothie – and Pothy’s is another story altogether – think the Indian version of Grace Brothers), we went to the temple for a look around, and one of our group remarked that temples were not just places for prayer, they’re places to get away from the mania of the streets.
Anyway, time has caught up with me again – more soon.