Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Alex & I were up early but as anticipated, not early enough to beat the sun. The Lonely Planet listed a few sights to see in Kanniyakumari. On the top of the list was the Thiruvalluvar Statue a tribute to the Tamil poet and philosopher. Visitors can climb to the statues feet for an impressive view. Another sight is the oldest and the most ancient landmark, the temple of Goddess Kumari named after a Goddess who is said to have prayed here before Lord Shiva in order to be accepted by him for a wife. Thus, the name coined for this place. Flocks of women visit the temple of the wedded goddess in order to have their prayers for a husband to be answered.
Kanniyakumari is significant in Alex & my journey as this is a turning point. Alex & I have been traveling south for several weeks. Leaving here, we will be shifting gears and moving in a geographically northern direction.
Not only have Alex & I geographically been going south for many weeks, so has our relationship. I reached my turning point at the Sivananda Ashram several days prior to reaching India’s Southernmost point. Given my mindset, I had absolutely no desire to pray to a goddess for a husband considering my actual wish is not to marry my current “husband” and travel partner but to unload him.
Throughout Alex & my relationship, we have worked out a system of barter and trade agreements we call coupons that are earned by participating in an activity he or I would rather have not had the pleasure of partaking. Given Alex was far from keen about a long visit to an ashram, I had to authorize several coupons. Alex quickly redeemed these coupons for the ability to be 100% in charge for 4 entire days equaling the number of days Alex followed someone else’s rulebook at the ashram.
Today was the 3rd consecutive day following our visit I had to relinquish any form of control or opinion. The problem with this, Alex was unable to make up his mind on where to head next. The fact it was time to head north stressed him out. In his mind we had achieved the halfway mark of our time left together in India here in Kunniyakumari. However, this served only as the symbolic halfway mark. However, not looking at geography, we’d past this mark a few days ago in regard to the time left to travel around India.
Eventually, Alex realized there was only one direction to go now: northeast. The next city of interest according to the Lonely Planet was Madurai. I settled into a 6 hour bus ride. As we headed in the northeasterly direction, the landscape changed leaving the hilly Western Ghats in the rearview mirror with flat and scrubby land ahead. We passed a large wind farm more than I have even seen in the States. Many areas were flooded and soaked from all the rainfall. The post-rain smell once again brought me back to Florida. The closer we got to Madurai, the swampier it got.
The bus played back to back movies on its small TV. Based on my small sample, Tamil films focus more on action than romance. Of course, these films did not lack in the song and dance department.
Once the bus rolled into Madurai, I was reminded of Hanoi. Mainly due to the city having a more colonial look but of course mixed with the usual chaotic scenes of India I have become accustomed to seeing. I came no surprise to me later that this was once the headquarters for the British East India Company.
The lodging we checked in to was a bit more luxurious with a price tag to match. The hotel we checked into cost 600Rs, about $13. Alex was a bit cranky about the rate given his quest to have a daily average of $10 per day for all expenses. I was stoked. The higher rate for the room was totally worth it: we were rewarded with hot water, cold A/C, towels and a TV. It is funny I consider those items luxury items now but it’s the little things in life that make me happy. I enjoyed a extra-long hot shower to drown out Alex’s rants. When is he going to chill out? Hopefully the A/C will help.