As we arrived in Trichy (formally known as Tiruchirapalli - try saying that one fast several times over), Lily announced ‘Mama, I’m templed out.’ Templed out? Ah. We were in the heartland of Tamil Nadu where there were temples galore and the next two places we were visiting (Trichy & Madurai), temples were most definitely the main attraction. And it may have just been Lily who said it at that moment, but she was also speaking for the rest of them.
Here's Lily drinking her very milky, very sweet chai at Trichy station:
It cracks me up really, because we've spent so many years trying to keep sugar to a minimum, hot drinks included. Then within a few weeks in India, in one fell swoop, they are all little sweet tea addicts, surreptitiously sprinkling more sugar in when we look away for a second 😆
Anyway, back to the temple business. So, first day in Trichy I thought we'd do something completely different and whipped them off to a Science Centre which I thought may be fun. And was it fun? Err, well 'fun' may be stretching it. We were all very tired, we were chased by swarms of maniacal mosquitos through the corridors of the dusty, dimly-lit museum and when we got all excited about the 'interactive' displays, none of them were working. But hey, you win some, you lose some. The highlight for the children was the planetarium which joyfully was up and running and we had it all to ourselves, which meant the kids could clamber over the seats and generally run amok in the blissful cool of the starry interior.
We've stayed in some hugely different places during this trip, ranging from apartments to people's homes to palace's to rattling overnight trains to Ayuverdic nature resorts. But in Trichy, this was a first: to stay in one room with two triple beds for the six of us and boy was it cosy. ('Cosy' is, if I'm being honest, code-speak for a bloody nightmare). Here we are in our two-bedded room:
Let's just say we won't be doing that again in a hurry! Ok, I know I wrote a blog or two ago that we were trying to stay clear of cities but - what can I say? - sometimes it's just not possible. We are on a pretty strict budget and sometimes needs override wants. This place in Trichy was cheap but our clothes and rucksack straps got as tangled as our moods and I think it's the most I've shouted at the children since this trip began - eeeeeek!
So, we just had to get out and go temple-ing anyway, mixed in with food and chai breaks and fruit buying and atmosphere soaking. And what may have been lacking in our accommodation was certainly not lacking on the streets of Trichy.
After Trichy, we headed to Madurai, one of the holiest cities of South Asia and known as The Athens of the East. The Meenakshi Temple is even more famed than the Trichy temples, so how to break it to the children that, when they were feeling 'templed out', we were definitely going to be temple-ing it in Madurai? Well, Andy found a tour company which provided a great mix of temple tour and cycle rickshaw ride around some other sites in Madurai. The temple tour was fascinating (according to us) and way too long (according to the children.) Benji's summary? ‘He just kept droning on and on and ON.' Truth is, they were WAY more interested in the stray, mangy kitten they befriended and very nearly succeeded in convincing me to let them travel around with it perched on top of their rucksacks (what am I like?)
But they loved the cycle rickshaw tour in which we took in some of the old city of Madurai, the banana market, the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal Palace, and a very old Catholic church, where the children were allowed to try cycling themselves - harder than they thought it would be!
We also took the opportunity in Madurai to visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum which was fascinating and provided welcome respite for three templed-out children. Madurai was the city where Gandhi first adopted the dhoti (the length of material worn by men around the waist) to stand beside the nation's poor.
Maya asked, Why do all peace activists get killed? Of course they don't all get killed, but anyway, it's a good question and food for thought: what is it about world peace that humanity feels so threatened by?
That's all for this blog as we leave Tamil Nadu and head over to the south-western state of Kerala. As an aside: almost twenty years ago I met a great girl called Rebecca in Tamil Nadu whom I ended up doing tons of travelling with all around India. We've been reminiscing these past weeks about our travels all those years ago as with my family I've been largely re-tracing Rebecca & my Tamil Nadu steps. So there's been photos going back and forth and lots of memories re-surfacing. This picture in particular made me chuckle. Here's me on the back of an Enfield. It's not Andy, but it very well could have been, because little did I know that around the same time this photo was taken, Andy was also in India preparing to ship his very own beloved Enfield back to England!