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The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

Pondy and beyondy

INDIA | Wednesday, 18 January 2012 | Views [846]

Our plans for the remaining leg of our journey were thrown slightly askew in Kodai when we learnt that a big cyclone had blown through northern Tamil Nadu on New Years’ Eve (the tail end of which we experienced as the squall in Alleppey). Our next destination, Pondicherry, had been hard hit – power was out, they were having trouble getting clean water in, and 46 people in the region had died from falling walls and electrocution. We weren’t entirely sure that going to Pondicherry was a good idea, but after some research we discovered that (a) there was nothing else that we wanted to do with our remaining time that didn’t involve tediously long bus trips; and (b) that most places in Pondicherry were back on their feet and that the locals were keen for people to still make the trip as it is peak tourist season and they were suffering economically. So new decided to forge onwards: with big smiles and zero expectations.

After a quick stop over in Trichy for some Marry Brown’s and many renditions of the Run DMC song (with lyrics changed to reflect our journey, moods, what we were having for dinner etc) we arrived in Pondicherry, known by the locals, exceedingly adorably, as ‘Pondy’. We found a city scarred – power poles were snapped in half and their cords lying on the sidewalk (eek!), windows were smashed, and there were piles of rubbish (bigger than the standard piles of rubbish) in the streets. Pondy still however managed to retain its French colonial charm – lots of crumbling colourful buildings, cute little schoolkids with pigtails and flowers in their hair, and some lovely wide ‘tree frondy’ avenues. The tourism slump meant we got our hotel of choice, in an awesome location amidst the French quarter. We spent a good percentage of our time in Pondy sorting out presents for our beloveds (and battling the postal system, which is WHOLE new version of inefficient bureaucracy…the experience is well summed up by the quote “you wait here some time, sir”) – you guys better friggin love us! Admittedly we also spent some time shopping for ourselves and indulging in the amazing French cuisine available (hello cream!)

With only a few days left before departure, we decided to take Jack’s Uncle Mark’s advice and journeyed a few hours inland to the temple town of Tiruvannamalai. This place has special significance to Hindus who believe that the god Shiva manifested himself as a linga (phallus) of fire at a mountain there, and they have big festivals every year where everyone climbs up the 800 metres and they burn hundreds of litres of ghee to celebrate. Jack and I decided to make a lingam pilgrimage of our own, and wisely set off for the climb in the blazing heat of early afternoon. This was not the most pleasant climb; there was zero shade, plenty o’rocks and lots of false peaks (and with them many shattered hopes). The view from the top was stunning and we got to stand in Shiva’s footprints (our feet got very ghee-y). On the ascent we got funny looks from some Frenchies coming down and assumed it was because we were wearing shoes (the yearly pilgrimage requires believers to make the climb barefoot). We got the last laugh on the way down when we overtook them, sweating profusely with their feet wrapped in fabric, begging us to share our water (we did). That night we had a delicious veg meal at our hotel and sampled ‘kashmiri naan’ at our adorable waiter’s urging – “this is very nice, madam” -  which turned out to be naan bread covered in raspberry jam, glace cherries, chunks of pineapple and jelly cubes – which might be really nice…if you are eight…but we obligingly swallowed, smiled, and gave our thumbs up.

The next day it was back on the bus and full circle to lovely Chennai once more. We arrived in mid afternoon and decided it was a good time to catch up on our blogging. I was about half way through an entry and Jack had sorted all the photos when the shop owner rushed upstairs and warned “power will stop at 6 pm, madam!” I glanced at the clock: 5.57. Quickly I aimed my mouse at the ‘save’ button, but our friend had failed to mention the computers clocks were  3 minutes slow…oops! Hence the very late entry – sorry guys!

We have now arrived in the beautiful Philippines and are spending a few days in the surfing town of San Juan on the west coast of Luzon. We are both safe and happy and well (despite a few wipeouts) and eating lots of pork.

Lots of love to all,

T & J xoxox

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