24.12.2016 - 26.12.2016 30 °C
Day 7 - Saturday 24/12/16 - Mahabilipurum - Pondicherry
We awoke this morning to the sounds of an impromptu cricket match in the antiquities park across the road whilst a group of saffron clad men walked past beating drums and chanting and a cow and calf sauntered by. This is at 6:30 am! Only in India.
And then there was the "half Indian" incident last night.
When you visit some of the archeological sites there is one price for Indians (say R30 and another price for "foreigners" say R500). Well we were queuing up to pay our R1000 to visit the Shore Temple when an altercation broke out at the ticket window. A very tall, very fair pucker Englishman exclaimed that he was half Indian and wanted to get in for R30. He reckoned that his mummy was Indian.
He even went to the extent of taking off his Ray Bans and inviting the ticket man to look at his eyes for proof!
Needless to say, when he admitted that he didn't have an Indian passport he had to pay full whack just like the rest of us.
Mind you, I can't blame him for trying. $13 each is a lot of moolah to look at one temple, when you consider that there is no cost for visiting the other 10 or so older rock temples in the middle of town. Only in India.
Times have changed. A throw away cup used to be made of terra cotta - now it's just a paper cup. The chai is still delicious.
This morning we engaged an auto to take us to the Five Rathas which is a little out of town and then back through town to the Pondicherry bus stop. Luckily, we had saved our tickets from last night as these (with a thumb placed strategically over yesterday's date) got us into to see these five exquisite temples. So we actually got to see two very impressive sites for our ticket money. We're not complaining.
The Five Rathas
We were expecting a nice 2 hour bus ride for about R60 apiece, however, this was not to be. We must have spent an hour and a half sitting in the winter (30C) sun watching bus after bus speed through all packed to the roof rack with humanity and no room for a couple of old codgers with oversize luggage. (And to think we had the whole bus to ourselves on the way down from Chennai). We hadn't reckoned with the weekend and Christmas Eve.
So, back we went to the Butterball B&B and they ordered a car for us. It cost us R2000 and was worth every Rupee. It was a long enough ride in the car and would have been pretty average in an overcrowded bus even assuming that we had been able to get one to stop for us.
The car took us to the front door of Villa Sentosa. This is our most expensive accommodation yet at about R3900 a night. It is not quite located where we wanted to be, being about 1.5 km north of White Town. However it is very nice. Apparently it is an old merchant's house dating back to the 1800s. It it is 2 storeys and the rooms open off verandah which partly surrounds a central open courtyard/ terrace. There is a roof top terrace on which you can enjoy the cooler evening air. Its also the place where the wi fi works! I'll take some photos of it tomorrow.
Christmas Eve decorations on the temple near us. There were no lights on Christmas Day
Villa Sentosa. Home for the next 9 nights
The roof terrace
] The verandah
Day 8 - Sunday 25/12/16 - Christmas Day in Pondicherry
Well this wasn't the liveliest Christmas Day on record.
Carol has been suffering from some kind of flu since we arrived at Mahabilipurum and it knocked her pretty flat today.
So, apart from calling Andrew and Fiona, we spent most of the day vegging out.
We missed the children and particularly the grand children.
Our room looks out on to a four way intersection and it would appear that one corner of this is the agreed location for the dumping of household garbage. The local cow and dog population are aware of this arrangement and delight in pushing the rubbish around to get at any little titbits which takes their fancy. As most of the locals are vegetarian the pile of refuse is generally made up of vegetable matter with liberal sprinklings of paper and plastic. The cows, being vegetarian themselves, obviously fare the best out of the arrangement. They are invariably fat and sleek and contented whereas the dogs are usually thin and hungry looking.
. Happy cow
Later in the day the municipal garbage division comes along to remove what the cows and dogs have spurned. The team consists of a small open truck, a male driver and two ladies with whisk brooms. (The whisk brooms consist of a bunch of twigs about 45cm long tied together at one end to make a short handle. The sweeper basically has to squat on the ground in order to use them).
While the driver finds a shady lamp post to lean on, the ladies pick up all the garbage by hand and then use their whisk brooms to sweep any small bits and pieces into the monsoon gutter channels.
When the truck brigade has got rid of the bulk garbage, another lady with a pedal tricycle with three 44 gallon drums on board carefully sweeps out the gutter channels using her ubiquitous whisk broom and a piece of board for a dust pan.
Everything looks spic and span, but an hour or so later the pile of garbage has reappeared and the cows and dogs are back scavenging!
We have only seen one or two very scrawny looking cats. This is a little surprising as there is a healthy population of rodents scurrying around. Our DuCATi would have a field day here, although she has only brought little mice home to show us.
Other 'wildlife' that we have seen included a mongoose (or maybe he was a squirrel) in Chennai, a few monkeys at the monument park at Mahabilipurum and some goats. The cows look the best fed.
No tigers, camels or elephants yet.
Day 9 - Monday 26/12/16 - Boxing Day in Pondicherry
Are we indeed too old for this? I guess time will tell. Carol is still crook and wants me to to go off sightseeing on my own. I want to take her to the doctor. (Yes there are still some doctors left over here!). But she won't go.
So we spent the day resting.
Not so another bit of wildlife that I forgot to mention before.
A colony of tiny black ants entered our room through one of the power points and ravaged our emergency food store. This had consisted of a couple of large packets of biscuits which we had been enjoying with a cup of tea.
Of course it's frowned upon to harm any creature - even an ant.
(A good Hindu housewife prepares a daily offering to the little creatures. This takes the form of often intricate and colourful designs in powdered rice set out on the roadway at the front gate to her house.)
A rice design with scooter for scale.
Anyway, we added our contaminated biscuit offering to the pile of garbage at the street corner and the cows and dogs had a field day.
I was particularly sad to have to throw out the best part of a packet of "Sweet and Salty"s but, being kind to animals is good Kharma. I just hope the cows and dogs were as kind to the ants!
Now we understand why packets of bikkies and lollies are often tiny here in India. That way, you eat them all in one sitting and just leave the crumbs for the ants.
Hopefully we'll get out a bit tomorrow.