Carole’s trip in India – with breakaway……
A week in the Shivaliks was spent, sometimes praying with others on the banks of the Ganga, and at other times walking up mountain paths. They stayed in gracious English bungalows and explored quaint towns with their local monuments and stories of adventure and heroism. Shopping for beautiful hand-woven, naturally dyed shawls at weaver’s workshops perched high on ridges with the Himalayas in the backdrop
Then from the cool, crisp hill stations, they travelled to the sunny south. Golden beaches, salty sea breeze and history awaited them at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. In the next ten days Carole savoured poetry in stone as she got to study and enjoy exquisite stone sculptures, hundreds of years old. From beaches she visited paddy fields, from the plains she climbed to hill stations. A visit to Puduchery with another Parisian friend proved serendipitous. A taste of French hospitality and ambience at the erstwhile French Colony was memorable as they stayed with a French lady in her Colonial home. Cobbled streets, antique shops, fragrant cafes…Carole and her friend spent sunny days just wandering around and walking in and out of shops with arms full of fine cotton weaves. From a French experience to a Danish one at Tranquebar, where all they had to do was walk on the beach, soak in the sun, enjoy siestas and eat good food. A day trip to a village with lunch on the banks of a temple tank completed the idyll.
More temples and ancient architecture at Tanjore and Kumbakonam where they explored remnants of a glorious past. They drove to Karaikudi, the once affluent palace-filled town of the Chettiars and visited the gorgeous Meenakshi Temple at Madurai. They stayed with a Dutch couple at their guest house on the shores of a lake surrounded by hills and forests and even a waterfall.
It was a special surprise for Carole that at Kodaikanal she visited an old church that was built by a priest who came from the same town she was born in! It just increased the magic of the hill station for her with its crisp clear and incredible views. The enchantment continued at Munnar with its plush slopes carpeted in tea. She travelled back more than a hundred years as she stayed in a colonial bungalow with its large expansive rooms. There was tea tasting and a taste of life-during-the Raj at the High Range Club. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye as they headed back to the plains, to their next destination – the small village of Champakalam, beyond Allepey, hidden in the backwaters. The home stay was on the edge of a river. Carole soaked in the sounds, smells and the sights of life along the river. A quaint church around the bend, a little temple around the corner, uniformed school kids scampering up and down, ferry boats plying, people fishing and houseboats coasting by. Excellent food, excellent hosts and great scenery later it was time to wend northwards to Kochi, with a stop at a fishing village where it was only them, the waves and the beach.
Fort Cochin was another experience altogether with the magnificent Chinese fishing nets, growling ferries, the cacophony of traffic and chatter of people. Carole stayed at an old heritage building converted into a hotel. Her days were spent following her nose around old spice market streets, exploring antiques, sipping ginger-lemon-sodas and shaking off enthusiastic salesmen. She listened to live Indian classical music watched a grand Kathakali performance, ate good food and shopped till she dropped from Ernakulum, just across the bay and a ferry ride away.
Carole’s odyssey came to an end on the 42nd day, with melancholy and comradeship keeping us company. This journey had ended, but it only made way for a new one to begin. What next Carole?