When Mood Music
2006-05-25 10:43:00

After blogging yesterday (Wednesday 24th) I returned to the street-stall where I’d eaten the previous night. The results: a Bruce full of dosa and vegetable curry but also a Bruce who had been shat on by a passing bird. One of my fellow diners told me that this was good for my character. I can understand the logic of this but I was a little pushed to wholeheartedly join in with his amusement.

The rest of this entry just a little picture-heavy.




Today (Wednesday 24th) was another guided-tour day – my last, I think. This is not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I prefer not to be feel as though I’m being led by the nose all of the time. I think I’d sooner make my own mistakes, amid the occasional triumph when I manage to do something all by myself. (“Gonna take my shoes off and throw them in Periyar lake because I’ve got two feet in the water” – thank you Ms Bush!)

The descent today into Tamil Nadu wasn’t without its hairy moments but I thought at the time that I was getting used to overcrowded buses with suicidal drivers. The route dropped maybe 1000 metres in 6 or 7 km to the Tamil plains, then passed through a region of the largest fields I’ve seen in India The crops where mostly grapes and cococuts, as far as I could see, with a couple of home-grown giant religious statues near a small village called Gudalur.

"" vinyards

We whized past them too fast for me to photograph A few kilometers further is a town called Cumbum. (My India atlas spells it Kambam.)

"" It really is called Cumbum
"" Statue of Gandhi in Cumbum
"" Cumbum street
"" temple near Cumbum bus stand
"" Parvati temple nea Cumbum bus stand

From their my tour-guide took us onto the most crowded bus I’ve experienced yet. It was a wee 20-seater, so packed that two blokes were hanging out of the back doorway. (The door itself had long since been ripped out.)

A few worrisome kilometers took us to Tirali waterfalls. It’s a pilgrimage/religious centre: most people arrive by bus, truck or car, a few staying at a government-run guesthouse about 1 km from the falls. The falls themselves are reached by old-ish concrete steps, past stalls selling food, cigarettes, towels, combs, shampoo and other sundries. There were quite a few people drying themselves after visiting the falls. Many of the women were standing with companions who held the wearers’ saree ‘tails’ to dry them.

The path narrows near the top of the slope to the falls, where metal rails separate women from men. (Children seem to go with either parent, no matter what gender they are.) Everyone can see everyone else but the rails would stop all but the most ardent groper. Men in underpants (mostly boxer shorts) or lunghis and fully-clothed women stood on a railed-off concrete ledge and showered under the falls. Most men and a few of the women used shampoo or soap.

"" Tirali falls
"" a bridge near the car-park on the way to the falls
"" as above

Of course I had to try this but was too, ahem, modest to remove my lunghi in public and hadn’t brought any soap or shampoo. But standing under the water was breath-takingly cold and refreshing. I think a lot of folk were amused by the sight of me enjoying the falls and then walking back down the steps in a soaking lunghi. Mostly this amusement doesn’t bother me but occasionally I think I’d like to stand out a lot less. I changed into trousers behind some bushes near the beginning of the path – thank goodness I’d brought them.

"" freshly-washed pilgrims
"" pilgrims’ clothes drying on their bus

Roy, my guide, then took me to some nearby temples – this involved a 2km walk and the loss of a bag of puffed rice to a rampantly greedy macaque. At this temples, there is a small hole in the face of a wee cliff. The hole is about 2 feet wide by 1 foot hight. A few folk were chanting prayers outside the hole before slithering through it into a chamber which, according to Roy, could hold 30 people. There was no hint that I should go in: a relief because I really didn’t fancy it.

"" small temples near road by start of path to falls
"" near to where I took the previous photo is a brand-new temple: the cement hasn’t yet been painted
"" Women who haven’t had children by the time they want to (apparently usually within a year of marriage) leave these clothes at temples as part of their fertility prayers
"" Stream at the start of the path to the main temple
"" Some children who’d seen the adults in the last photo asked to have their picture taken of course wanted me to photgraph them too
"" these two asked to be reshot
"" This not-so-little bugger pinched my food!
"" one of the shiva temples – apparently old but very venerated
"" some pilgrims outside the chamber
"" you can just see the ever-burning(?) lamp
"" an altar to shiva (see the yoni and lingam at the back and nandi, shiva’s mount and companion[?] at the front)
"" more prayers for fertility

We bussed back to Cumbum and then back to Kumily, occasionally chatting but mostly staring out of the windows at the greenery that coats the escarpment back up into Kerala. I’m going to have a day of private wondering around Kumily tomorrow and then maybe move on to other places.

I spent most of the rest of the day chilling out on my hotel’s balcony and chatting with Roy and his mate Osaka. I get the feeling Roy’s more than just a sociable drinker – maybe it was his downing a quarter-bottle of brandy in no time flat that gave me this feeling.

"" kids near my hotel climbing mango trees

Later that evening I ate at a posh-looking ‘pure-veg’ restaurant. I’m still boggled that they did not serve any form of tea.


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