Had their moments

Saturday, Delhi. Another early start for another guided walk. This time we’re exploring one of Delhi’s ancient cities, Tughlaqabad, built in the early 1300s. It is a fabulous set of ruins in a fabulous setting. We have a great guide, who is both interested (so much so he started the company) and interesting. Even more remarkably, he has visited Australia, including Adelaide. It’s a terrific walk.

After the debacle of the previous afternoon, we change our schedule to some upmarket window shopping. The last of these destinations is just inside an Indian Air Force compound (no, we don’t understand it either). This seems to be a destination of choice for Delhi’s “ladies who lunch”.

Our final objective for the day is to find a pack and send business for the final parcel home. We fail spectacularly. Plan B is to buy a cheap bag, and take our goods as checked luggage on the plane.

At Delhi airport on Sunday morning we have an astonishing 24 kilograms of excess baggage. The cashier for this purpose has a sense of humour. As I approach the counter he asks how I am, I say I am overweight. He replies that he can make me lighter, I say I am sure he can. He does, to the tune of 6,000 rupees.

We are headed for Rishikesh, for what we hope will be a relaxed and relaxing end to the trip. Not by design, we are arriving at the beginning of International Yoga Week, and Rishikesh will play host to plenty of foreigners. Two years ago on our previous visit here, we took a propellor driven aeroplane under the Kingfisher banner, to an airport which was almost deserted upon our arrival. Kingfisher is no longer an airline, and our 737-800 is packed to the gunwales, not least with oversized cabin baggage. Maybe we could have saved 6,000 rupees after all.

Regrettably adding audio to these blog posts is, for now at least, beyond Indian Interlude. Please re-read the post with the sound of monks chanting, temple bells and horns playing in your head. It has been the soundtrack to its composition courtesy of the small temple next to our hotel. Truly beautiful.

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You get a tan

Friday, Delhi. We start the day with a guided walk through some of old Delhi. We visit a mosque and a church, walk though the spice market, see a garden, and generally marvel at the host of laneways and alleyways. In the space of fifty metres we see five small temples. Our guide is a terrific young woman, and she joins us for coffee at the end of the walk. We tackle Red Fort on our own, and come away feeling that we have seen better elsewhere.

During our visit to Red Fort it starts to rain, and whilst we shelter under a tree for a while, we know the day and our packed program is getting away from us. We fail to raise our driver on the phone and opt for an auto rickshaw back to the hotel, and phone our Indian contact on the way to explain what we have done.

The rain grows steadily worse, and the roads are in flash flood. The rickshaw offers protection from neither direction. The driver does not know the street our hotel is on, let alone our hotel. Matters don’t seem to improve despite him pulling over to ask for directions on several occasions. I ring the hotel and hand him the phone. Even this fails as he misinterprets the number of the bridge pylon given as a landmark for our street, as the hotel address. The rain does not ease.

After more than an hour we make it back to the hotel. The rickshaw driver demands double my proffered fare. In the lobby is our driver and a manager from his company. The manager asks how I am, I show him a trouser leg saturated from waist band to hem, and say “cold and wet”. He promises not to keep me, we cancel the rest of the day and head upstairs. The hot water (a variable quantity in Indian hotels) is not switched on – and we don’t know we have to ask. We laugh, but this hasn’t been our best day.

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Choking smokers

Jaipur, Wednesday night. A trip to the Raj Mandir – the best cinema house in Jaipur, and possibly all of India. It might not look much from the outside, but the inside is an art deco masterpiece. The auditorium is huge, like a theatre.

Tickets are sold outside the building, and there are separate queues for men and women. Kerry and Ian get in their respective queues, however security get Ian out of the queue soon enough, explaining that Kerry can buy tickets for both, and that the women’s queue is shorter.

Security is maintained in the queue, which by the way is created using fixed barriers. Males standing near, but not in the queue are moved along, with a forceful shove in the back if needs be. Ditto for any man trying to have a chat to any of the women in the queue.

There are different price categories, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond and a Diamond Premium, which is what we opt for. Although the audience is small, they don’t let Indian Interlude down, by whooping, hollering and cheering in all the right places. Of course Indian Interlude is at the disadvantage of no subtitles, but is confident it has the gist.

We leave at intermission in preparation for tomorrow’s early start. We stand on the road outside the cinema watching the fireworks display associated with a wedding which is taking place maybe 200 metres up the road.

We draw a small crowd, of course, one of whom engages us in the usual conversation. Where are we from, how long in India, where are we going, I love Australians, etc. He then says he would like to gift us two Rajasthani puppets which he produces from his bag. We display appropriate gratitude and he asks if perhaps we have a gift for him? Maybe some Australian currency he can show his family? Reader, the name of this blog is now officially Indian Gullible.

We have a 5:30am alarm call to accommodate our Thursday schedule. By the time we check out and overload the car we are 15 minutes late. First stop, Amber Fort. Indian Interlude takes an elephant ride to the top of the hill, and despite being on the back of a moving elephant, hawkers are still keen to sell their wares. Indian Interlude has been sufficiently off the tourist beat lately that we had forgotten how bad the hawkers can be.

We dismount the elephant and embark on a quick-ish tour of the fort. Impressive and imposing from the outside, it is beautiful and gorgeous in parts on the inside. The design of the connection between rooms, palaces and courtyards is extraorinary, as is the rainwater harvesting, use and re-use system.

Our next stop is New Delhi, via Abhaneri to visit the step-well there. This is some two hours drive away. None of the road signs are using Roman letters, so we have no idea where we are, but after an hour we deduce the driver has forgotten about Abhaneri and is intent on getting home to Delhi as quickly as possible.

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A knock comes on the door

Wednesday, still in Jaipur. Despite the cleanliness and the wide streets, we are still in India, and Jaipur still has cycle rickshaws. We have seen camel carts, and working elephants, and horses and donkeys and monkeys. Indian Interlude wouldn’t want readers to have the wrong impression.

We start the day with another walk in the old city, in an area known as Modikhana, named for the trader communities. We see tinkers making kitchen utensils, an area which used to house film distributors but which is now a pharmaceutical wholesale market, the early morning street food, and an almost unique Krishna temple. We take tea with an antique dealer, whose family was invited to the city, and indeed India, generations ago as weapon makers. We see more of the bazaar and its sense of order.

We spend the afternoon touring two of Jaipur’s forts. We start with Nahargarh, the main feature of which is Madhavendra Palace. This is a complete connected maze of rooms, terraces and courtyards, with each of 12 queens having an identical suite.

Then to Jaigargh which is very impressive indeed, and much more a military fort. This fort also produced weapons, with its own iron smelter and cannon foundry. There is a collection of cannons on display, each has a name, and each is accompanied by a description of its war service. This reads like a footballer’s career summary – which battles the cannon fought, against whom, and the outcome are each listed.

We follow with a mid-afternoon lunch at somewhere quite ordinary. A late shopping stop and we call an end to the day. An early-ish start awaits tomorrow, with more Jaipur, and then a road journey to New Delhi.

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If it makes you feel alright

Monday, Jaipur. We arrive roughly on time a little before 5:00am at Jaipur Junction. The station and its immediate precinct is incredibly busy. Thankfully our hotel is quite close to the station so the car journey is brief. After the registration formalities we both opt for sleep, with a plan to make breakfast before the kitchen closes. Regular readers will anticipate that Kerry stays in, whilst Ian goes out. Apart from being surrounded by around a dozen young men, all of whom request a photo shaking my hand, the other curiosity is a large open-air lawyers’ market. We have no better explanation, we are near the district court and it looks like this is where lawyers meet their clients.

Jaipur was established fewer than 300 years ago, as India’s first planned city. Of nine rectangles in the old city, three were reserved for Royal purposes, the other six were each allocated to specific trades. On what we have seen it is less litter prone, and has wider streets than other Indian cities. We take a late afternoon walk, exploring the bazaar and cuisine therein. The market is quite something, and has its own sense of order. We think our guide has a sweet tooth, because most of the cuisine we try belongs at the end of a meal. One dish in particular, made with condensed milk, is unbelievably good.

Lack of planning sees us take dinner in the hotel. The food is average, and well over-priced. There is also entertainment in the form of music from harmonium and mrindigram, and a dancer. This dancer also seeks the cooperation of individual western women to mirror the dance moves and those who have a go are good sports indeed.

Tuesday we head to Sanganeer, previously a separate town, these days simply a suburb of Jaipur. We go to see some handmade paper production (the area is well known for this), although we have already witnessed the process in Pondy.

We’re then anticipating some hand made block printing of fabric, but instead are led to a handicrafts emporium which hosts tourists from the Palace on Wheels train. We may have said this previously, we have seen too many of these shops, and no desire to see another. We exit as quickly as possible, and I think our guide is shocked when I provide a blunt assessment of the experience.

During the afternoon we visit a good bookshop, an average Italian restaurant, a very good clothing store, a very average government-run handicrafts shop, and a very nice indeed jewellery shop. Dinner at a restaurant on the suggestion of our auto-rickshaw driver – close to excellent.

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Me hiding me head

Indian Interlude spends most of Friday driving from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. We don’t want to labour the point regarding the disrepair of the Indian National Highway network, suffice to say the hour or so from Jodhpur is appalling. Even when the road surface improves, the endless hazards of slow moving vehicles of two, three and multiple wheels; the wandering live stock, the “controlled” livestock; and no shortage of breathtaking driving from both behind and the other side of the road, makes the journey a challenge. We lunch at a kind of Indian roadhouse, except it does not sell petrol.

Jaisalmer, the Golden City. Our mid-afternoon arrival is at a very welcoming hotel. The manager insists on filling in the registration paperwork over a “welcome drink” on the rooftop terrace, and he also has a sense of humour. He takes my passport and says he is going to Pakistan tonight, he will return my passport to me tomorrow. Ian goes exploring, Kerry does postcard duty in the hotel.

On Saturday, a long-ish day with a guide, mostly. We start at Gadi Sagar Lake, where the catfish swarm, and which served as the town’s water supply for many years. It is not compelling, however we see more of it when we return on our own on Sunday. Then to the fort. Originating in the 1100s – we forget to ask to see the foundation stone – the fort is inhabited by a few thousand reseidents, including our guide who is from the Brahmin (high) caste. Impressive in its own way, it has some 99 bastions. It requires restoration, and our guide persuades us that the palace in the fort is not worth the entry fee.

The fort has seven Jain temples, and no Jains live inside the fort. We visit two of the temples which are next to each other. These date to the early 1500s. For all intents and purposes the design is the same as the temple we visited at Ranakpur, although these are much smaller and more intimate. Despite the notices saying “do not give money to the holy men” there are “holy men” seeking tips.

Kerry is keen to purchase some quality jewellery on this trip, and we have a hot tip about a store in Jaisalmer. Our guide knows the store and regards the jeweller as a real artist. Regrettably we have arrived during a mourning period for a deceased relative, and the “artist” is away, and the store closed.

We do make an investment at a cooperative fabrics and textiles business, which our guide assures us really does provide 70% of the sale back to the women artisans responsible for the work. Our guide is also honest enough to say he has been paid by said cooperative to promote the store.

We admire two of the best havelis (houses) in Jaisalmer. One was built for a former Prime Minister of the Princely State of Jaisalmer. It was constructed in two halves, down the middle, by two brothers. The result includes different ceiling decorations in any room, and different carved lattice work on the front of the building, either side of the door. It is still in family hands, one of whom shows visitors around, and they have a range of goods for sale to support the upkeep of the house.

Here Ian buys a brass ornament of the Mewar royal family sun symbol. The negotiations were swift.
II: What is your best price for this?
Vendor: 1200 rupees.
II: I will give you 600.
V: I cannot sell this for 600. 800.
II: 700
V: 750.
II: Done. (and no doubt I was).

We return to the hotel to gather goods for another parcel home! Lunch at a very good rooftop restaurant, where, in honour of their 25th anniversary we are offered a free drink, and have dessert on the house too.

On to the pack and send business who deal with FedEx only. Reader, this becomes a most expensive parcel of books, brass, and fabric. They also take cash only, necessitating something of a goose chase for an operative ATM.

In the late afternoon we venture to a deserted village called Kuldhara. The short version of the story is to say the entire village decamped one night, and no one knows to where. It is regarded by many as haunted, including our guide who would not stay the night for $1,000; and the long-term and old watchman, who won’t stay at night either.

We drive further into the desert to play tourist and have a camel ride, watch sunset from the sand dunes, and enjoy a “traditional Rajasthani dinner”. One half of II thinks the camel ride is great fun. Ian observes to Kerry that her camel is defecating as we make our way uphill. Kerry says this is not the camel. Kerry opts out of the ride early, we watch the sun sink on two feet, Ian returns to the saddle for the return trip, whilst Kerry walks with our cameleer.

The dinner features music, singing, and dancing, held outdoors with the guests seated in a circle which extends from either side of a small stage. One of the dancers looks barely old enough to work on licensed premises, and is still learning how to dance. We are the only foreigners in attendance, save a Frenchwoman who is keeping company with an Indian man. The crowd are quite appreciative of the song choices, although we don’t understand a word. During the performance there is a power failure (common enough in India) however this one is engineered so guests can wonder at a star-filled sky.

The dancers also invite the women in the audience to join in for one dance. Reader, one of the foreign women declines the opportunity.

We are first in line at dinner, largely by our guide’s urging, who has stayed at the far edge of the camp. Dinner is good, notwithstanding our over indulgence on the peanuts and pakoras served during the performance. We eat a few dishes we’ve never heard of, and don’t remember what they were.

Sunday is ours until late afternoon, when we are due at the train station for the overnight trip to Jaipur. We revisit the lake from yesterday, taking the fastest auto rickshaw in Jaisalmer, which also has the loudest sound system. We attempt to visit a garden but the gates are locked, and the ticket office closed. The driver finds a spot where the wall no longer exists, but doesn’t seem keen to let us walk up the hill to the main attraction. We waste time in the fort and the market area, have tea and cake, waste more time, take lunch at another rooftop restaurant, witness a noisy and traditional Indian welcome, we presume for siblings of the hosts, and return to our hotel for our car to the train station. To spare us the walk over the platform bridge, our driver crosses the railway lines just beyond the station, where there is no crossing, parks under a shady tree, and helps us to the platform.

There is more confusion than usual at the station. The seating charts are not yet posted on the outside of the carriage, so no one is sure where they are sitting. An Indian Railways employee carrying the chart print-out is pounced upon and advises we are in cabin “C”. All well and good, but the cabin markings are painted over. Indian Interlude scores the coupe, that is, a cabin for two; at least once our local contact removes the other passenger who had already decided the cabin was his. Leaving Jaisalmer at 5:15, we’re scheduled in Jaipur at 4:50am.

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All the little things

Feeling unwell keeps Kerry at our homestay for the day, whilst Ian heads out to tour Jodhpur with a guide and our driver.

First stop, the Jaswant Thada, a memorial to a late 1800s maharaja, the first whose queen(s) weren’t obliged to join the funeral pyre. The area is the site of royal cremations today, with many small memorials (a Mughal / Musilm notion) marking the spot. It is a very quit and peaceful place, and includes portraits of the Rajput rulers going back to the 13th century, and a presumably more recent practise of writing one’s wishes on a handkerchief and tying them in front of

Then on to Mehrangar Fort which is absolutely spectacular. The battlements start at six metres high, and go to 36. Built using local rock, the fort sometimes seems to merge with its natural foundations. Cannonball dents, spiked gates to deter enemy elephants, and handprints from maharanis on the way to their husband’s funeral pyre, the fort has everything.

Including a royal museum, with some excellent paintings, a collection of princely cradles, panalaquins, weaponry, textiles, and tents. The royals didn’t seem to rough it when on the move, either hunting or on military campaigns.

It is past 2:00pm by this time, we skip lunch and head for Sardar Market, where we climb to the first floor of the clock tower, rousing from slumber the ticket attendant – the armed guard slept peacefully on – and then a wander through some streets of the old city. We finish with a very tasty samosa from a corner stall.

Tomorrow, on the road. Again.

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Tax the street

Wednesday 19 February. We’re on the road today, driving between Udaipur and Jodhpur. There are two stops along the way – Kumbaralrgh for its fort; and Ranakpur for its Jain temple.

The drive shows the variety of Indian road infrastructure. We enjoy a very brief period on a two lane dual highway, the bulk of the journey is on a piece of tarmac barely wide enough for one car, and the final stretch is Indian Interlude’s least favourite element of Indian travel: in the country, at night, on a road under construction.

The scenery for the first two legs of the trip is just short of spectacular, on winding roads through improbably steep hills. We pass through a handful of small villages, and even fewer towns, one of which appears to be hosting three weddings this evening. We are still struck by the vibrant colours of the women’s dress in Rajasthan.

The downside to the journey is the driver’s near-incessant use of the car horn. He honks at every bend, he honks at every crest of every rise in the road, he honks at all living beings, man and beast, on or within cooee of the road surface, he honks at every vehicle motorised or not. Remarkably, Kerry sleeps through two hours of this. I would mind less if the honking had any positive effect, but it appears immaterial, certainly for vehicles on the other side of a bend in the road.

Finally, Kumbaralrgh Fort. This is very impressive indeed. Built in the 1400s, the wall extends 36 kilometres, is six metres wide, and (literally) rock solid. As recently as the 1940s there were still some 15,000 people living within the fort, the population is now measured in hundreds. We see only a tiny part of this fort, primarily the royal palace, and a small shrine where we are guaranteed the flame has been maintained for 600 years.

On towards Ranakpur, via an overpriced lunch at a roadside food house where two couples, one British, one Australian sit at the table adjacent.

Our visit to the Jain temple at Ranakpur is less than auspicous. Our driver is being helpful by hand holding Indian Interlude through ticketing, and purchasing an audio guide. Kerry’s audio player begins with a flat battery, so she returns to get a replacement.

We are then denied entry to the temple because our driver has inadvertently taken the tickets back to the car where he waits for us. Ian tries to explain that he has two audio guides, and every other ticket, he couldn’t get one without the other, so just let us in. No.

Back to the ticket desk. You remember me, they won’t let me in, just give me two replacement tickets. No. An attendant from the ticket office comes back with me to the temple steps to talk sense into the attendants. Much yelling from the bottom of the steps ensues. No. Then a head wobble in the direction of someone more senior. The ticket office man and I try and talk sense to this supervisor. No. Finally I make the trek back to the car park to try to find our driver and our tickets.

Inside the temple it is a little underwhelming. Constructed in the 1300s, there are 1,444 carved pillars of stone and marble, each one different. Around the interior perimeter are small “cells” containing a set of three similar idols in each, and amongst these, some larger, locked, and darkened rooms, with larger and more impressive idols barely visible.

Less than half-way through the tour, Ian’s audio battery expires, and he does not seek a replacement.

The temple is also patrolled by two “priests” offering blessings for a long and prosperous life in expectation of a donation. The temple has a “no leather” rule which means that Indian Interlude’s wallets are safely in the car, and no donation is possible.

We leave Ranakpur at 4:45, and make it into Jodhpur around 8:00pm. Along the way, to the amusement of everyone in the car, groups of monkeys have somehow obtained multiple packets of crisps or other snacks, and occupy the road eating their loot.

Between dusk and the city limits, the drive is challenging to say the least. Given the concentration required earlier on winding narrow hill roads, it has been a tough day at the office for our driver.

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Know better

And the Indian Interlude award for best looking Indian city goes to … Udaipur. Certainly the part where Indian Interlude is staying, in the old city and adjacent to the lake, the view at day or night is very difficult to beat. The laneways of the old city are winding and narrow, like any ‘old city’ really, although cars are allowed, and the motor scooter and auto-rickshaw are an unstoppable force.

On Monday we start touring at the Jagdish temple, dedicated to Vishnu, and not the most impressive we have seen. Nonetheless, there is a small group in the temple singing devotional songs, and this is both a gorgeous sound and continues throughout our visit.

We tour the City Palace, which is quite sizeable, and has a well maintained museum as part of the offer. We also take a boat ride on Lake Pichola around the Taj Lake Palace hotel, and to the Jag Mandir.

Then lunch at a restaurant on very large grounds, where all the diners appear to be foreigners. An older Englishman sits at the table adjacent, and asks that we not talk about cricket.

Post lunch we are meant to visit an art school, however this appears to be a front for an Indian handicrafts emporium, of which we have seen quite enough. Even so, there are a couple of items that take Kerry’s fancy, and the Kashmiri sales pitch is rewarded. Later we visit the Princess Gardens where the former royals could spend a day. We turn down a puppet show, but take a drive around another of Udaipur’s man-made lakes.

In our review of the day we seem to have missed a couple of scheduled stops, and the guide hurried where we would have rather lingered. Curiously, he was nowhere to be seen at the “art school”. Also, our boat ride was meant to be around sunset, however we are told this is not possible today. Later, Ian visits a boat landing near the hotel, only to find the boats very definitely operating, and indeed, the ticket office open and only too keen to sell him a ticket. Whoever our guide was (we often do a poor job of grasping Indian names) don’t use him when you come to Udaipur.

Ian also buys some inexpensive .925 silver jewellery (to be re-made at home with real .925 silver), and is finally sold by a tailor who offers to burn his fabric to prove it is wool. The tailor also says Richard Gere was in the shop yesterday, ordering suits too.

One of the staff here says his grandmother designs for Hermes. Certainly we see an exact replica of a Hermes scarf, without the Hermes price tag; and it is beautiful, however too rich for our pockets and Indian Interlude declines. We are invited to make an offer, however we have no desire to insult either the man in front of us, or his grandmother, with our price.

There are also two touts both of whom do a great line in Australian accents. One (from an art school) gives Ian a cheery “G’day mate”; whilst later a Kashmiri shawl seller, asks if we’ve “had any good tucker”.

On Tuesday we escape the city for a walk in the nearby countryside. We drive about twenty minutes west of the city to a small village called Morwaniya. We walk through farmland producing sugar, maize, wheat, and mustard seed. We also see a corner of a field set aside for distilling country liquor. At other villages children are keen to say hello or ask for their photo to be taken. Women often lower a veil to cover their faces. We’ve heard differing explanations for this. Today’s guide says that it is a matter of tradition in response to strangers in the village, and that even male elders may do the same thing. Previously we’ve been told that it became common for Hindu women to wear a veil after the Muslims conquered India, as a way of protecting the women from Muslim suitors.

It’s fair to say that the local women, even working in the fields, are wearing some of the brightest saris we have seen, and some older men have turbans which give the women a run for their money in the colour stakes. We also notice here that many men here have both ears pierced from a young age.

We spend the afternoon on minor essentials, before going across the bridge for a lakeside dinner which provides a fabulous aspect, as well as pretty good food.

Indian Interlude is also pleased to report much cooler weather in the north.

Wedenesday: back on the road.

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Wait a minute

A brace of free days in our itinerary. Indian Interlude has set aside the afternoon for packing and sending another 10 kilograms home, regrettably this will have no effect on the excess baggage charges likely to be faced when next we fly. Naturally, this means more shopping in the morning, with the intent to send it off today.

We make an early stop at the main post office. India Post have been on strike the past two days, and customers are aplenty. We check with the packing and parcel side of the building who assure us they will pack our goods for us. Parcel sending from India involves, amongst other things, getting your items into a sealed box, and then having the box stitched inside a white cotton bag. Kerry also takes the opportunity to start her stamp collection, and spends thirty minutes in the philately queue. She reports that if “pushing in” gains Olympic status, it will be “gold, gold, gold” for India.

More shopping which involves trying to remember where particular shops are, and confirming one recommended store is as closed as it was the day before. One store with a very particular line remains elusive.

Post-lunch, we gather our bags and look for an auto rickshaw. There are three parked at the corner doing nothing, but can Indian Interlude persuade them to work? A passing auto does the persuasion. Our driver wants to know if Indian Interlude is coming back to the hotel, or if he’s just dropping off. We explain the parcel packing and the wait, he doesn’t seem to mind. Our language skills let us down as the driver tells us that India Post don’t do packing. We know better, and tell him we asked this morning. He is persistent, so Indian Interlude asks if he knows a packing place if India Post won’t do it – of course he does.

India Post tell us that packing is closed for the day, and it isn’t yet 3:00pm. Indian Interlude ponders the veracity of this, are the staff just busy following the two days strike and can’t be bothered? Or why we weren’t given this crucial piece of information in the morning? No matter, as a now smiling rickshaw driver delivers us to a packing and forwarding business. Actually, the driver is quite jolly, and seems to be on talking terms with roughly half the women in Pondy. The pack and send business option is less onerous than dealing with India Post, and familiar to us from our previous trip. After all of that, even the auto rickshaw fare is reasonable.

Kerry has a mild case of “Tamil tummy” which leaves Ian to have a very good Vietnamese meal for dinner at the restaurant on the corner.

Saturday morning sees Kerry stay at the hotel attending to postcards, whilst Ian goes exploring. In the afternoon, more shopping and another trip to the pack and send business. Late afternoon we head back to the Ganesha temple for another elephant blessing, despite our misgivings on her living conditions. Blessings are less skilled here than in Hampi, and Kerry misses out; Ian pays for a number of blessings and Kerry misses the photo.

Tomorrow is a travel day, and we leave the hotel at 9:00am. Two flights and twelve hours later Indian Interlude will be in the north of the country.

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