We've been trying to find internet and keep up to date but it has been tricky. Some hotels have a computer but just one so we go looking for a cafe and that is not always easy.
We have just survived a 36 hour train ride - two nights and a day - in a two double bunk cabin with another couple, Muslim from Thailand, communication limited to smiles and offers of snacks and bananas. We wrote a long piece about all that which Richard will post asap.
We arrived in Chenaii/Madras early this morning and our first task was to collect the bike from the freight car and get it checked through. It was in good shape, no damage which was fortunate, and Richard loaded it up with our bags and wheeled it across the tracks on a slipway and out to the road where a man ran up - there is always a man who runs up - to help remove the packing and wipe it down. He also recruited another man to go off in a rickshaw with a plastic bottle to get petrol. The tank has to be empty for the trip but that makes going anywhere a bit tricky till you find a gas station. We had no idea where that might be of course, so were happy to have a courier sent off for us. I had planned to take a rickshaw to the hotel and let Richard brave the traffic on his own - I was just being thoughtful! - but he insisted he felt totally safe and confident, so I crossed the road to the right direction we would take and took my place on the seat behind him and hung on. It was fine and he manoevered us expertly in and around and in front of the other vehicles. We found the hotel quite easil, checked in, showered and set off for town and sightseeing - not on the motorbike - we took autorickshaws.
First stop was at Fort St. George established by the British in 1640 and gradually extended by the East India Company to be the main administrative centre in the south. Excellent museum with aquatints of monuments that were drawn by a father and son who travelled all over the country in the late 18th century Thomas Daniell also wrote an extensive journal apparently. Also other collections - costumes, weapons, coins of all kinds minted by the French, Danes, Portuguese, and the Rajahs of various states as well as the East India company. The fort also has a church that dates back to the 1600s and we checked their record books for the marriage of Richard's parents in 1933. The church has a cupboard full of the handwritten documents dating back to the mid-1800s - earlier ones than that are kept in the museum.
Since they were not listed in those records, we found out the names of other anglican churches and took off to see those. no luck - finally Richard phoned Helen in the UK and asked if she knew the name of the church. I just googled it and it turns out that it is in Hyderabad - not in Madras at all.
Next we tried to track down the State Bank of India - main branch - in case the building had survived - no luck there either.
Finally we located the hospital where Helen was born - Richard had to see 3 different people to get permission to take a photo of the outside.
Traffic is not as frantic or agressive here as in Delhi but you would have to be quite discriminating to see a real difference, I think. We walked quite a bit in the alleys and back streets - it is funny to walk past cows and goats and not blink - I said earlier that walking could be quite hazardous but it's not really bad - just different. Cow pats are actually quite rare since they are a source of income - dried and sold for fuel.
In the morning, the sidewalks are swept clean - debris piled up in heaps that eventually seem to be picked up or smushed and spread about! But there is a great deal of garbage uncollected...an industry waiting for someone to develop. apparently there is a town in Sweden that is generating all their electric power from garbage treatment - India could use such a program.
On our wanderings, we passed a Shiva temple - in the middle of nowhere in particular - a block long with a 60 foot high ornately carved tower - all the gods and goddesses depicted. unfortunately it was 3:10 and it did not open till 4 so we didn't have a chance to go in. Temples of various sizes and small shrines spring up in surprising places - one has to keep eyes open all the time for them.
Time to quit for today - but one thing I haven't mentioned is how grateful we are that someone told us to buy a cell phone right away. it has been perfectly marvellous and so cheap to use. 6 minutes to Helen today cost only a $1.00 The convenience for the dozen calls we had to make to the bike shop and to our charming agent Irfan etc has been fabulous. It cost little to buy and little to use and has been a godsend.
Tomorrow we set off on the bike for the south along the coast to Mamallapuram.
Do let us hear from you too!