The trouble with the car being over, we headed towards Kanyakumari from Madurai with a short detour at Tirumangalam for lunch. Food was okay and I noticed that the hotels there and beyond kept 'kothavarangai vaththal' (dried and salted cluster beans, roasted in oil) which I liked immensely, and snacked on it exclusively rather than as an accompaniment to food (usually with curd rice). NH-7 (or NH-44, according to the new national highway numbering plan, of numbering East-West highways with odd numbers and North-South highways with even numbers, similar to the North American way, but with numbering swapped) is a joy to drive on. 99% of the road from Bengaluru to Kanyakumari is 4-laned. I could only recollect 4 bridges where work is still in progress. All the 650 kms of it can be traversed in around 10 hours with 2 or 3 short breaks and no need to get into any town.
|Windmills of the Gods!|
|Sunset at Kanyakumari|
|Gandhi Mandapam with the ocean and|
the moon as a backdrop
|Sunrise at Kanyakumari|
La Niña, El Niño picking shells
|From the Vivekananda Rock Memorial|
|Padmanabhapuram Palace - One view|
|Thirparappu Falls - Mini Courtallam?|
|Mathur Aqueduct - The bridge goes|
on and on ...
After finishing dinner again at the Vivekananda Kendra canteen, started for Madurai. We were delayed by almost 3 hours and we were still in two minds whether to stop-over at Tirunelveli for the night or head towards Madurai. Took the latter option, as it was a dual lane highway and hence night driving would be easier and it was close to midnight by the time we were in a hotel at Madurai. The next morning, had a darshan of Meenakshi Amman and Sundareswarar, and since it was Navarathri, a lot of the sannidhis were decorated pretty well. By a quirk of fate, had to make a full circumambulation of the temple in the hot sun on the Chithirai streets looking for a promised 'crystal' at Kodaikanal to El Niño, in vain. Maybe some 'punyam' at least should have accumulated. :-)
Headed back post lunch to Thanjavur. Drove by for a visit of the place where I stayed with parents and siblings till I finished college. Driving before the house slowly in the college's staff quarters where we lived, elicited some curious glances from some kids going back to their homes, post school. The place was almost the same, save for the fact that a lot of families living there currently own cars which were parked in makeshift sheds or under trees where we used to play street cricket. The place abounds with trees, especially neem, and is very close to a towering wall of granite, around 100-150m high, which is a section of a hillock shaped like a elephant and at least 4 kms long. I used to tell Señora/kids that they could see peacocks as common as crows around there and yes, there they were, crowing around.
|Spot the Peacock|
There was one tubeless tyre causing trouble from the time we were driving to Kanyakumari as there was a leaky puncture. Got that fixed at Thanjavur. There is a cascading story of this tyre causing severe trouble on a succeeding trip later (subject of another travelogue :-)). After unwinding for a day and a half (eat-sleep-watch TV-snack-do nothing routine, no questions asked, isn't that great? :-D) at Thanjavur, headed back to Bengaluru with a short detour to Srirangam, on the way, to buy a 'portable ammikkal' (அம்மிக்கல்/flat grinding stone) from shops inside the temple premises. These shops (கண்டா முண்டா சாமான் கடை :-)) sell these and a variety of kitchenry like knives, choppers and similar weapons :-), spatulas of all kinds, shapes and sizes, tawas in iron, cast iron etc, leaden vessels (rasam tastes heavenly when made in this. ஈயச்சொம்பு ரசம்) and 'once upon a time, traditional game-boards and accessories' like பல்லாங்குழி, சோழி, தாயக்கட்டை etc (pallaankuzhi-14 hole board game with shells [ಅಳಿಗುಳಿ ಮಣೆ in Kannada], sozhi-cowrie shells [ಕಾವಡೆ in Kannada], dhaayakattai for playing dhaayam-Four faced dice, usually metal, for rolling (ಪಗಡೆ ಆಡ in Kannada, ಚೌಕಾಬಾರ is a variant)). I love the sound of the shells being dropped one by one into the pallankuzhi cups and the grab of the shell collections at the end of a turn. Hmmm...La Niña and El Niño play it at times, with their own rules and end up with a fight, taunts and a huge racket.
Perumal Saevai (salutation) at Srirangam had to be from the outside as it was a Saturday and getting into the temple meant crowds and delays. Off went the chance to have scrumptious authentic Iyengar puliyogare or vadai or any prasadam from Srirangam. (Slurp! Vada Poché) Will have a go at it next time, after a proper darshanam, maybe. :-) Headed back to Bengaluru from there, uneventful, after a break at Adyar Ananda Bhavan at Salem for lunch. Home, sweet home, it was!
The car's trip odometer read 1900 km at the end. It was time well spent. And until I find time to write my next travelogue, a road trip to Jog Falls and Karwar, which was as adventurous as it can be, ciao.