Today was a very hectic day. I woke up at 4:00 am to pack and at 5:00 am the tuk-tuk was already waiting. In 25 minutes we arrived at the airport, the major cultural advantage of Negombo. I paid the driver 800Rs and gave him an extra tip from the money I still have left and also some pens for his children. Like everybody in Sri Lanka he was very happy and grateful. After the check-in I went to get on the Internet at one cafe with free Wi-fi but it did not work so I just wrote my blog and ended buying a beautifully looking Ceylon tea, a pleasure just to look at it beside tasting, mango+pineapple.
Sri Lanka Airlines surprised all the foreigners because they put us, without asking, in the first class and I ended up near Angie, a British lady living in France who used to have a house in Sri Lanka and used to come twice a year. Now she sold it but she still comes many times and now was going to India. She was a well versed traveler as I understood and obviously she was very knowledgeable about Sri Lanka so we chat the entire flight, about 1 hour.
In the airport the passport officer had to figure out how come I had extra pages in my passport. As Angie told me in the plane the Indians are more pedantic and this was exactly the situation. In the end he let me go and after I changed some money and tried to figure out a price for renting a car at the single agency in the airport, I gave up and bought a prepaid taxi to the city (350R) and got at the railway station where after some investigation, I chose an agency and I started the negotiations for the car. We fixed an itinerary of about 8 days that would bring me to Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Allepy, Munar, Madurai all the way to Tanjavour and Trichy for 21000R for a Chevy van and negotiated down to 20000R.
But India is India and I felt it the moment I landed. The Sri Lanka smile is not there anymore even if you salute the people or smile to them; men are very stern looking, women may budge occasionally. But from the moment I got off from the airport taxi I was surrounded by porters, sellers, beggars and all sorts that all wanted business. Welcome to india! It is hard to get rid of all of them…
I asked the guy from the agency to bring me to a bank so I rode on a scooter behind a surly guy who brought me first to an exchange office and at my insistence to a bank after a second attempt. But the bureaucracy in India is its second name and it took more than 30 minutes to exchange TCs and cash to the desperation of the scooter guy. But everything went all and I came back to the car rental place flying on the scooter and holding tight to my new friend. The traffic reminded me of scenes from the past visits. Lots of people, everybody pushes, honks, fumes and exhaust, dirt everywhere. My driver speaks several words in English, better than the previous one I had in 2010 who did not speak at all, and after I paid and got a receipt with the itinerary, we left to visit the main temple in Trivandrum, Padmanabhaswamy temple. This proved to be fast because you cannot get inside as non-Hindu but I could visit its impressive outside decoration.
When I got back to the car the driver told me that we cannot go to KanyaKumari and we had to go back to the agency. On the itinerary the agent spelled Cape Comorin, taking from my notes, but he did not know what it was or at least he pretended this way. When I went to the office he asked for another 2000R. When you are in India you better should act like in India so I started yelling at him that he did the writing and better know what is doing, etc. and he should know better where is Cape Comorin than me. He apologized that he made a mistake and in the end we compromised for another 1000R,.. The Indian way. The distance is about 200 km more and they have a limit for the pricing in Kerala of 200 km a day, so probably it was out of the limit.
We left to Cape Comorin or Kanyakumari, that I found out on the way that is in Tamil Nadu and you need a permit to get here. The drive took close to 3 hours and we arrived here around 3;30 pm, booked in Madhunnai hotel with ocean view but it took a while till I was able to get a reasonable room. The AC was noisy, the view was terrible, kind of old and dusty, no wi-fi and turned out latter that was no hot water.
Around the Cape were throngs of people, a number that you hardly match in any other country. But the location is really beautiful, the place where three oceans and seas merge. Right in front is the rocky island where Swami Vivekananda meditated. An immense statue is built on the island beside a relatively smaller temple. The trips are starting early morning and I will go there around 8:00 am. On the shore is a monument where Gandhi’s ashes are kept. Besides there is very active market and people hang out grateful for the evening breeze. The temple in Kanyakumari is very important and it’s the first temple of Dravidian architecture that I see. Built in sculpted black granite the temple is austere looking inside. You have to remove your shirt and walk bare chested inside and leave all cameras at the entrance. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kumari, a manifestation of great Goddess Devi. The goddess, famous for being able to defeat demons, is represented in the main altar surrounded by candles. I took twice the tour in the temple because it was really impressive. Unfortunately no photos of any kind were allowed.
The sunset in Sri Lanka and Southern India cannot be matches, a gorgeous red globe going to sleep in the waters. I watched the sunset with an entire audience of Indians who were there looking at the sun and worshiping it, as I may have said before, even without knowing.
Returning to the hotel I tried to get a train ticket from Trichy to Tiravanamalai for the March 21 but everything was booked and only waiting list was available, so I may end up going by car or bus. During dinner in a South Indian restaurant over Boney M songs the power went out and it happened several times over the evening.
India is known for its IT specialists, but the country infrastructure is far behind their expectations. The power grid is weak and in the IT country it is hard to find an internet connection. As far as i could find out In Kanyakamuri is only one Internet cafe, that means one computer and that one did not have power. After trying in several places I found a hotel where I could buy an wi-fi access card for 100R/hour but even there the access was only in the hotel lobby…