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Adventures in Southern India

9 Rupees

INDIA | Wednesday, 13 February 2008 | Views [678] | Comments [3]

Hey everyone! It has been awhile since I posted, so I've got a little catching up to do! We have been doing a lot of travel by bus so far. It has turned out to be more convenient than the train for in-state travel. It is cool because it is an exclusively Indian way to travel here! We never see other white people on the buses, and they are often surprised to see us lumber on with our big backpacks. I jotted this story in my journal during one of our many bus rides. I think it sums up what bus travel is like here!

I paid 9 rupees (about 25 cents) and climbed onto a bus with a giant Asian fairy airbrushed on the side. A (supposed) 3 hour ride from Mamallapuram to Tiruvannamalai, with a change-over in Chinglepet. Several more Indians climbed on and crammed into the seats with us (though the rest of the bus was nearly empty) and our floating explosion of color took off into the green South Indian countryside. As we bumped along the ruddy roads, the cheerful Indian music (turned up full blast) was punctuated by even louder horn blasts, announcing our presence to the cows and occasional villagers on the road. The aroma of 2 smoking sticks of incense wafted from the front of the bus. This seemingly mundane public bus has engaged every sense from the get-go!

The scenery outside was amazing - dry brown earth covered by a layer of low brush, giant palm trees shooting up around the greenest fields, women in brightly colored sarees resting in the shade, swampy rice paddies with grazing water buffalo and an occasional striking white goat, villages made of mostly thatch huts with clothing laid out to dry in the sun. We passed an intricate stone temple high up on a hillside. Occasionally we passed through a town where the school children in their little ties and bare feet waved to us.

Then, I tuned into some high-pitched giggling coming from the front corner of the bus. Noah, a huge grin on his face, has made friends with three local men in their plaid button-down shirts and clashing plaid lungis(long skirts). They chit-chatted and laughed, explaining that they are very good friends from childhood and giving Noah their address. All of a sudden, one of them grabbed Noah's head in his two hands and kissed him on the cheek! Another pinched his other cheek between thumb and foreknuckle, the way you pinch a chubby baby. They exited the bus with promises that we will call them if we ever visit whatever town it was again.

Our traveling shrine, complete with rose-patterned wall paper, bunches of fresh flowers, and a fiberglass flashing statue of the elephant god Ganesh, continues on the lonely winding road that seems narrower than the bus itself. This must be the best quarter I've ever spent!

When we stopped in Chinglepet vendors poured onto the bus selling all kinds of fruits, fried snacks, and sweets. "Excuse me, sir, may I have some whooping cough with my grapes?" one of the guys joked as a hacking old man offered us some fruit. We heaved our bags onto our backs and headed for the bus stop to catch our connection. Though at least 5 Indians had confirmed that we were in the right place, our phantom bus never showed up. After much waiting, a police officer flagged down the next bus that passed, stopping it right in the middle of the road, and put us on it. Here's hoping!

It turned out we were on the right bus, and we watched the sunset silouette stunning rock formations and palm trees as we rode on. We stopped in another small town and jumped out for a steamy chai - cheers! Here we are in Gingee! All of a sudden, there was a complete power blackout in the entire town which apparently spanned the countryside, as the rest of the towns we passed through were also blacked out. Business continued by candlelight, though the traffic delayed us even more. Finally, 6 hours after we left, we arrived in the small temple town of Tiruvannamalai. This bus ride surely summed up all the glory and frustration of traveling in India! 

Tags: On the Road




too too fun for you! i am jealous and want to be 25 again and in india with you guys! i am afraid that i am too jaded to ever travel like you are! the lure of heavenly beds and on-demand movies is waaay to great to ever just cruise around willy nilly for me! (unless the above mentioned amenities would happen to be in fiji or tahiti!) soak it all in and keep posting. you and noah ALWAYS have jobs as travel writers for nat geo or conde naste!

i love you and will talk to you soon.

aunt titi

  aunt titi Feb 14, 2008 2:37 AM


Honey, I've only got a moment but I found out how to get to your journal on my own. I will read it to your nana later. So don't worry about responding to my e-mails through your dad;s address.I will write you later. Happy Valentine's my love. Don't worry about your hair. It's going to be ok. Remember your senior pictures? Short and beautiful!. Bye for now Mom

  Tina Chutz Feb 14, 2008 7:57 AM


You're a wonderful writer. Keep the sights, sounds and smells coming.

  Beth Feb 15, 2008 1:50 PM

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