So Joe and I are into our final week and it has been spent in Mamallapuram (pronounced Ma-ha-bel-e-pora) with a lot of relaxing although still a bit of sight seeing! Our final train in India ran fairly smoothly, although we seemed to have been put in the baby carriage, so were kept up most of the night! Luckily we got the bus straight out of Chennai on Sunday morning with ease and checked into what has been a bargain of a hotel with a large mosquito netted bed, hot water and WiFi in the courtyard.
Mamallapuram is a bit of an ‘all-rounder’ type of place. Pretty good at most things, but it doesn’t excel in any one particular field. The beach is nice, but not amazing as it’s littered with fishing nets and boats; it has some temples, but they don’t compare to other ‘temple towns’ we’ve visited, especially in Rajasthan; the traveller cafes are good value, but not with the same good vibes of Rishikesh. That’s not me complaining though, it is a lovely place and it has been an easy place to spend our final week, but it does kind of feel as though it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be.
Our days have been very relaxed and we have joked over how a decision of so little consequence can be the most important choices we are making: which café should I go read in?, should I go to the beach now or this afternoon, or both?! As you can tell we’ve been stressed! We have found a favourite cafe in the ‘Namaste Café’ – ironically a Nepalese café, which as we’ve come to expect from anything Nepalese-run does fantastic, well…everything. It was great for breakfast with a bakery, fresh coffee, eggs, brown bread; but it was also good for lunch/dinner with both their Nepalese food (such as ‘Thukpa’ soup) and their continental efforts being very tasty.
Our evening dining has involved sampling the various fish restaurants, enjoying whole fish cooked up in a great tawa spice at what will be a fraction of their cost compared to a couple of days time. Australian prices have been looming a bit in our minds as the clock ticks down on our 50 pence coffee and cake sessions! Going from one of the cheapest countries I’ve ever been to back to one I know is horrifyingly expensive will be a huge shock and I’ll have to get on the job hunt pretty quick as the coffers won’t last long!
The sea has also been good fun, with much bigger waves than in Goa. Big enough in fact to knock you over and ‘washing machine’ you underwater. Joe goes for a sprightly swim every morning and catches sunrise whilst I also rented out a body board and had a blast shooting in towards the shore – with a couple of scraped knees to show for it. The beach itself doesn’t compare to Goa, and the sand is much softer as the sea doesn’t go out far – this has led to some energy sapping runs with the sand seemingly sucking you down as you go. The temples in the hills behind Mamallapuram were nice enough and we spent a morning exploring them, they were notable for the carvings etched in the sandstone. To be completely honest though, I think we have seen enough temples for the next year or so, so we did breeze through them!
Our one daily excursion was to the crocodile farm 14km away. It started in 1976 with only 15 crocodiles and has since grown to having bred over 5000 crocs. There are over 20 different species of crocs and alligators. We got some nice snaps of them (get it?!) and saw them being fed. I certainly would not want to come face to face with one! We were going to pop to the ‘Tiger Cave’ on the way back, worthwhile for elaborate Hindu carvings and a shrine, but no matter how much we shouted at the bus driver to stop – he didn’t – so we will have to go through life not knowing what the carvings in that cave are like!
So Mamallapuram has been a fantastic final stop, we have relaxed and refreshed, and I’m pretty sure I’ll dodge any cold/illness that I seem to get when I finish something big, with my body sometimes seeming to shut down for a few days! Joe meanwhile has already started sniffling away, he hopes he won’t be ill for Christmas! We’ve got a final couple of days here to relax, finishing up any shopping and ensure everything is nice and clean before heading off at 4am on Saturday morning to Aus!