We are getting to terms with the fact that 200kms progress by public transport in India in one day is actually fairly good progress and trying to achieve anything else in a day might be a bit ambitious. The key is to just lay back and enjoy the journey.
I wasn’t quite sure which tickets I had bought for our train journey to Tiruchirapalli but at 80 rupees each I was pretty sure they weren’t going to be first class and that the air conditioning was going to be “natural!” The train when it arrived was at least twenty carriages long and we were certainly at the other end of the train to the only other westerners but everyone getting on our carriage was very friendly.
It was absolute mayhem getting on with everyone shouting and gesticulating but soon enough we were all sat and the train creeped its way out of the station. The chairs were a small step above wooden and were divided into two benches facing each other. There were fans all over the ceiling of the train but most of the cooling came when the train picked up speed. It’s so dry and hot in this part of India though and it was really just hot air which was flowing through the fairly packed carriage.
We were pretty much a bit of a novelty for everyone and were soon enough engaged in conversation about where we were from/going to etc. The group’s English wasn’t great and the guy sat opposite me just stared at me from about a foot away for most of the journey but we are getting used to that and of course we had to have a few selfies taken with various people!!
There was certainly a buzz around the carriage and groups bought their own food with them and come lunchtime plates of rice and curry were appearing everywhere. There were also men walking up and down the carriages offering tea just about constantly and on top of that we could get curries, samosas, cucumbers, ice cream and I am sure a whole host of other things!! Shame we had decided to have a late breakfast before we left!
The area of Tamil Nadu that we were travelling through was some of the driest terrain I have ever seen. It was incredibly dusty and the only sign of life were the occasional banana plantation or coconut tree. Did I mention it was hot? I know I am not the best judge of heat but even Sarah was suffering as once again it pushed over 40 degrees!!
It seems as though as we travel north the craziness of each town increases too!! The street that our hotel was on was packed full of shops selling fabrics and the streets weren’t paved and were teeming with people walking/riding motorcycles/auto rickshaws and cars. The cacophony of horn blowing was defining and the place definitely seemed very alive!!
At this point things turned a little sour for us. Sarah started complaining of not feeling well and throughout the afternoon was in a pretty bad way. No real descriptions necessary and sure enough the next morning I also was pretty sick. If this was the Delhi Belly then yes it is far worse than any upset stomachs we have had previously in our travels. There followed a pretty bad couple of nights and days…just lucky we had a private bathroom, air conditioning and as luck would have it a TV with suitably crappy movies playing in English. After a couple of nights of just drinking water and electrolytes it was a good sign that we both felt hungry and felt able to leave the room long enough to get some food and much against our usual practices we went for a plain boring vegetarian pizza at an upmarket hotel. It was probably the most boring tasting and most expensive meal we have had in India but it was a life saver!!
Both feeling a bit better at this point we thought we should at least go and see the sight we were in Tiruchirapalli to see. The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is one of the largest, if not the largest, temple complexes in India. We caught a rickshaw there both still a little delirious which just added to the craziness of the experience!!
It was difficult to tell when we arrived in the temple complex as our rickshaw drove through the first gopura. (A gopura is an ornate monumental tower which we have been seeing in the Hindu temples). The streets were lined with stalls and a lot of beggars and then all of a sudden an elephant!! The state we were in this all seemed quite overwhelming!
It would have been great to have enjoyed the buzz of the streets around the temple but we didn’t feel up to it so instead we headed inside the temple proper. It was a huge area with loads of decorative temples inside but we have been spoiled by the other temples we have seen and while the size of the place was impressive it was more functional than necessarily especially beautiful. Again though it is to be said that this might have been because we were still feeling a bit sick. It was a great place to get out of the room and enjoy a bit of fresh air though and we were definitely starting to feel better.
There was one last sight staring at us next to the hotel which was the Rock Temple set atop a rocky outcrop on the centre of the town. Sarah sent me off on my own. Again the walk to the temple was pretty amazing through all the people and stalls. As I entered the temple through the madness it reminded me of a crazy Indiana Jones movie. I had 350 steps to climb to the top where I was rewarded with a pretty spectacular view over Tiruchirapalli and the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple.
By the end of the day we both felt that we were feeling well enough to move on and that we would probably feel better for it. I think we will always have “interesting” memories of Tiruchirapalli!! Fingers crossed some more immunity has been built up!! T
There were plenty off men selling a whole variety of food. In fact I believe you can pre order from your favourite restaurant! This guy was selling tea through the carriage windows.
The way into the temple, we passed through 7 of these goporam.
The temple area was full of various goporum, temples, pillared structures and open spaces.
The detail and the colours of the statues was quite incredible.
One of the other entrances to the complex. The whole area was quite impressive.
The area was full of various buildings. Not all were temples there were also these pillared structures which seemed to be used by people to escape the heat.
I am still amazed by the intricacies of the carvings.
People escaping the heat.
The Rock Temple sitting high above the city.
The views from the top were beautiful.