Wednesday, January 13th, we left Thekkadi at 8:30 giving ourselves plenty of time to stop along the way to our next destination of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
The descent of the eastern side of the western karst was steeper and accomplished much more quickly than the ascent a couple of days ago. Once again, the driving was crazy making if one paid too close attention, which I did since I sat up in the cab of the bus with the driver and his assistant. It’s so good to be bold. The best moment of the descent was the shrine located inside the bend of a particularly sharp hairpin turn. On the outside of the turn was a sign telling us, just in case we hadn’t noticed in the previous six miles, that we were on a hill road and should go slow. Our driver stopped our bus at the shrine and his assistant hopped out and took a donation to the shrine. We made it down safely, so, I guess it worked.
Once down onto the Tamil Nadu plains we were surrounded by lush cultivation: Tamarind, mango, banana, coconut, grapes, pineapple and sugar cane. That famous song by some band (whose name I can’t be expected to remember) kept running through my head:
“There’s mangoes to the left of me, bananas to my right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”
Saw all sorts of things from the almost ridiculous to the sublime: The grape growing system in which the grapes hang down from a lattice type arrangement, which allows people of a certain diminutive size to pick the bunches very easily (well, relatively easily, no manual labor in this country looks easy); the over eager brick maker with his incredible smile; and, after arrival in Madurai, we were allowed up on the roof of a hotel where we were afforded the most glorious view over the temple of Meenakshi. Sporting multiple towers encrusted with thousands of polychrome figures plus two gold (and, when I say gold in this context, I mean substantial gold and not the leafiest of gold leaf) domes over the inner shrines, it is a magnificent sight.
Finally, to our accommodations in Madurai, the Madurai Heritage, where each of our rooms had its own, private plunge pool. And don’t get me started on the menagerie of towel animals that appeared in our room the second day. I’ll HAVE to post photos for you to believe them.