So here we are in Mamallapuram, a small beach-side town just south of Chennai and tomorrow we will be flying home!
We really enjoyed the rest of our time in Southern India. After our short and very chilled stay in Fort Cochin we hired a car to take us down to Aleppey, where we bargained for a houseboat and stayed in the dingiest place by far of all our accommodations in India. However, as it was only one night, and we were looking forward to the house boat the next day, so we put up with it.
The ' Kettuvallam' (former rice barge) houseboat was a one-bedroom plus kitchen number with two oarsmen and a cook. Graham haggled hard and got the price down from the initial 8000 Rs to 5750 Rs, still a bit pricey but the boat was definitely the best of the 7 or so we looked at. We set off at noon, cruising the backwaters, lazing around on the deck and enjoying the view over the canals, little villages and rice paddies. The cook made us gorgeous food - by far the best we had in South India. At around six pm, and shortly before the rain hit, we docked up for the night. It is a rule for the houseboats to get off the canals by this time so the local fishermen can have their turn. It rained most of the night but we were nice and cosy inside the boat. The next morning, to Fran's surprise, Graham proposed and so we got engaged! A very memorable setting and a special day for us.
After breakfast it was back to Alleppey and back on the road, this time on two local buses (1 x change) which took us up into the mountains to a small town on the Kerala/ Tamil Nadu border called Kumily. Here we spent two nights and a whole activity-packed day jungle trekking, visiting the Connemara tea factory, elephant riding (so much fun !!!) and learning about spices (and then shopping for them - vanilla pods are soooo cheap here!!)
Next day we had another big bus-sing day - an eight our trip to Thanjavur. In hindsight we may have been better breaking our journey to Pondy in either Madurai or Trichy, for Thanjavur was quite off the beaten track and apart form the temple (which only took an hour to see) there wasn't much else. But hey - how were we to know, and we'd decided to go with the World Heritage list choice so Thanjavur just ended up being the pick of the day.
After another long bussing day we treated ourselves to some more upmarket accommodation for two nights in Pondycherry. Seeing the french influence in this Union Territory was interesting, and we spent a fair bit of time just walking the streets, doing some Xmas shopping and eating the different food - a nice change from the curries!
In Mamallapuram (just up the coast from Pondy) we are staying in a basic resort-style place in the middle of town. This morning we did a lap of all the awesome rock-carved temples, sweating buckets in the process (Having checked the NZ forecast, 18 degrees there will seem quite chilly compared to the 40 defrees here), before escaping back to the airconditioning.
And so we're nearly at the end of our trip and really really excited about getting back home!!