Installment #15 - December 21, 2000


We arrived in Madurai early Friday morning. We had not slept well in our non-AC First Class bunks (the train did not have our usual AC 2-tier). Our compartment had been invaded around 1AM by a family with loud voices and two noisy kids. By the time they decided to settle in another compartment, we were wide awake. So we rented a retiring room at the Madurai train station and tried to get some sleep. We were awoken to sign another form for the room. Then we were awoken to be told that coffee was available. Then we were awoken because they wanted to fix the fan in our room (that worked, but was very noisy).

So we gave up on sleeping, and Rita visited the Sri Meenakshi Temple while I worked on the pictures for the Quilon report (which is still unfinished). In the afternoon, we took a public bus to Kodaikanal and had an inexpensive but very uncomfortable four-hour ride, the last half of which was on winding mountain roads as we climbed to 7000 feet.

Kodaikanal (or Kodai for short) is on the southern crest of the Palani Hills amid steep green slopes. It was initially founded by American missionaries who set up a school for European children in the 1840s. It is now popular as an escape from the heat of the plains. I found it to be a great place for long walks, and I watched the sunrise three out of four mornings as I resumed my habit of early-morning walks. I’ve included pictures of some of the places I visited on my walks. Even Rita did some walking, with a visit to the lower end of town and a climb back up on one day, and a walk around Kodai Lake the next.

Rita and I took a ride on a "Honeymoon Boat" and were paddled around the lake by a boatman, Venice-style. We found a variety of restaurants including an Italian one run by an Indian who had spent several years in Italy. We visited the "Eco-nut" shop run by a woman we had met on the bus, and talked with her and her husband about the problems India faces.

Kodai in December is cold at night (I saw some frost in the early morning) and cool during the day. (We rented an electric heater from the hotel to keep our room warm8PM to 8AM, 240 rupees per nightso Rita found Kodai much more comfortable than Ooty.) It’s an excellent climate for walking, and there are many interesting, uncrowded, and clean places to visit. I walked for hours each day and my feet are now pretty sore, but I’m very happy. [Whatever rings your chime, Mr. Downs.]

We arranged a return trip to Madurai (to catch our train to Madras) on a private bus that was much more comfortable than the public bus. The travel agent told us that our train left Madurai at 8:20PM, not 7:25PM as shown in the railway schedule and on our reservation. The bus would get us to Madurai at 7:30PM so, if we took the bus, we had to depend on the agent being correct about the schedule change. We decided to risk it since there was another train to Madras in the morning if we missed the 7:25 (or 8:20?) train.

When we got on the bus, the driver told us that the train did leave Madurai at 7:25, but stopped at the Kodai Road station at 8:20, and the bus would stop at the Kodai Road station at about 7PM. We decided to get off at Kodai Road and hope our bunks had not been given to someone else when we didn’t show up in Madurai. It turned out that the travel agent was correct. The train left Madurai at 8:20 and picked us up at 9:02. Our bunks were waiting for us.

On to Madras.

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One of the twelve towers of the
Madurai Meenakshi temple,
which dates from 1560.
This tower is 50 meters high.
This temple elephant stands near
the entrance of the temple, accepting
offerings and giving blessings.
This is the tank at the
Meenakshi Temple.
This Kodai sign is located at the
engineer’s office, and it's not
the highest point in Kodai.
This government-owned TV and FM
transmitting tower stands near the
high point of Kodai, and served me
well as a landmark during my walks
in the countryside.
We stayed at Hotel Bala in the
center of downtown.
Fog in the valleys of Kodai at sunrise.
[This shot is gorgeous!]
Sunrise at Kodai.
A view over the rooftops of a
downtown residential area of Kodai.
A typical block of stores near
Kodai’s center.
Here is a view of Kodai Lake with a
member of the unofficial lawn
mowing crew in the foreground.
Rita and I recline on a Kodai Lake
"Honeymoon Boat" and enjoy the scenery.
A "Honeymoon Boat" being paddled
by a boatman on Kodai Lake.
The cool air and bright sun as I walked
around Kodai Lake reminded me of a
September day in New England.
This house is in a peaceful and
picturesque village southwest of Kodai.
This waterfall is in a valley near the
end of the old coolie track south of Kodai.
Pillar Rocks is a popular scenic
view 7km west of Kodai.

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