The morning in Chennai was as it had been every day for the week we had been there hot, humid, sultry and I wasn’t too sure where the wind had decided to hide but as much as I searched it was nowhere to be found. The city was awake by the time we left our lovely Indian family’s house, waving goodbye and hugging the family for they had shown us such kindness the entire week we had been there laughing as we tried to eat with our hands, taking us sari shopping, showing us the sights of Chennai, educating us in the ways of Indian culture and generally just providing us with lots and lots of love, albeit they were very concerned that we had decided to take a local bus and head south to the coast and the little coastal town of Mamalapuran.
With last minute instructions as to what to do and what to not do, what to eat and not eat and when to look up or down, we were deposited into peak hour traffic and the noise, chaos and hustle and bustle that is India. Cars, bikes, motorcycles, buses, trucks and cows jostled for space on the crowded streets as the tuk, tuk drivers slowly woke up sipping their chai before they started peddling for the day. Restaurants were open, the chai wallahs calling out and slowly shop keepers threw open their doors. The bus crept slowly, the driver pushing and nosing the large beast into any space he could find and it gave us a chance to just stare out the window and watch life in another Indian city. Definitely a regular love when travelling! It's hard not to love the traffic carnage, the taste of chai, idly’s, marsala dhosa, the beautiful women, sari shops, the smells of spice, flower markets; the noise, the smells, the sights, the culture and the people had all imprinted themselves onto my brain with the end result being a huge smile!
My thoughts were quickly broken as the bus lurched forward into open space and with that, the driver literally planted his foot and the G forces pushing me back against the seat and then we were motoring down the coast swerving to miss potholes, people and of course, the cows! The speed constant and slowing down or indicating was not an option and the country side sailed past in a blur of temples, villages, trees, people and more cows! About an hour and half later we pulled into Mamalapuran passed its town centre, just scraping under the electrical wires and in front of a restaurant midway through serving lunch. The bus screeched to a halt and the bus driver jumped out and was gone to enjoy the delights of the thali lunch, leaving the rest of us to struggle off with our bags and inhale our first glimpse of the town. Mamalapuran is a fishing village situated metres from the ocean full of fisherman, guest houses, carpet sellers and restaurants. It has a laid back feel that instantly makes you feel welcome plus finally, we had found where the wind was hiding!
Our stay was one of surprises; our guest house had a fan that worked and a balcony with a view to the ocean and yes, a roof top bar complete with Spanish restaurant where we enjoyed music, kingfisher beers, tapas and hammock time. Days were spent enjoying lazy breakfasts of marsala dhosa’s with endless cups of chai followed by exploring the town and the fisherman’s suburb down near the beach. Fun was definitely had down here in the evenings and the most special part of the journey here was spending hours each day hanging out at the orphanage playing with those special children who laughed, danced, giggled, held your hand and snuggled up to you. Each day we went back we spent more and more time there finding it harder to leave and wanting to stay longer as these kids were gorgeously lovable.
The highlight being a motorbike journey inland to a temple high on top of a mountain where a cricket loving holy man ushered us in for front row seats to his prayer session and then made us have tea with him to discuss Australia’s upcoming cricket prospects and were they really better than India? “Of course he said 'Australia are World Champions’. Following that, he eyed up my pen and asked if I would like to make a donation to the temple.
Thank you mother India you captured my heart with your chaos, music, smells, people, sights and food!