Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Fishermen in Mamallapuram
The next morning we moved on to Mamallapuram, which is a small, coastal city south of Chennai that is known mainly for its temples. Colin added a congested nose and itchy face (hopefully just an allergy attack?) to his list of symptoms yesterday and had same congestion with drainage and felt vaguely feverish when he woke up. While I checked over the bikes, I grabbed the thermometer from the first aid kit and found that my temperature was normal. Time to suck it up and ride. The first ten miles or so leaving Pondy were tough- lots of broken pavement and heavy traffic. Once clear of Pondy, the road turned beautiful, and traffic dwindled to a trickle. Another pretty ride through the agricultural countryside. The new feature today was the large number of oxcarts plying the roads. Since we left Pondy at 9:00 am, we made it to Mal by 11:00, and were checked into a room by noon. While we were unloading the bikes, I decided to check my temp again, and my fever had arrived. While my temperature was only a little high, I did not feel well. I did feel well enough, however, to enjoy a lovely lunch of pasta with cream sauce and chicken. At least with whatever I have now, I still have an appetite. After lunch, I returned to the room for a three hour nap, while Re went sightseeing. While Colin slept, I wandered the quiet streets of town, exciting the shopkeepers by the prospect of a sale.  According to people in several of the cities we've visited, it's been a very slow tourist season.  Not being in the market for souvenirs, I unfortunately couldn't oblige them.  Instead, I headed for the beach, which is a working beach filled with small fishing boats, and watched them bundle their nets for the day.  The weather was gorgeous- a salty breeze and warm sunshine, and I thoroughly enjoyed winding my way between the boats and the cows who were soaking up some rays on the beach.  She woke me up when she returned, and I felt remarkably better. Not great, but good enough to get another steak for dinner.

Two of the Five Rathas
Colin felt even better after a decent night of sleep, so we decided to take in the temple sights after breakfast. We stopped in at a cafe just down the street (curiously called Freshly N Hot?!?) for croissants, fruit salad, and coffee (apparently the French were here as well). Our first stop was the Five Rathas, a group of five shrines that were hidden in the sand until rediscovered and excavated by the British 200 years ago. Though the Rathas were impressive in that each one was carved from a single piece of stone, we were a little underwhelmed by the small size of the site. From here we rode a short distance to a group of mandapams situated on Mal's main hill. The hike through the rocks led to several temples carved out of the hillside. 

Part of Arjuna's Penance
We then rode the bikes down to see Arjuna's Penance and Krishna's Butterball (this is the BEST name of any site so far). Arjuna's Penance is an enormous relief carving on the face of a stone temple and was the highlight of the temples in Mal. It's supposed to represent an arduous feat he undertook in exchange for bounty from the gods and has really beautiful carvings of various animals and mythical creatures, from cats to elephants and nagas (serpent creatures) in a crevasse that used to have water flowing through it. Krishna's Butterball is just a giant rock that appears to be improbably balanced. I got the requisite photo of Colin holding up the rock.
The saddest carnival ride, ever.
Having seen the sights on the south side of town, we returned to the hotel, where we dropped off the bikes and found some lunch. After lunch we walked down to the beach and made our way to the Shore Temple. This temple was again, small, but magnificently carved, and with an ocean view to boot. We continued south along the beach and found ourselves at a funny little beach carnival. It consisted mainly of a couple of “pop the balloon with a BB gun” stands and the saddest kiddie rides we've ever seen. While we may not have been impressed, lots of local people seemed to be having a pretty good time.  

Nandis lining the wall at the Shore Temple
After admiring the temples, Colin went back to our hotel room and I returned by way of a beauty store that had hair colors other that six shades of brown (black-brown, brown-black, dark brown, light brown, golden brown, red brown) in the window. They had golden blonde, copper blonde, and one intriguingly called, lighter. I opted for a golden blonde, which was made in Thailand, rather than the one made in India, since there seemed to be more light-haired people in Thailand than I've seen in India. I returned to the room, mixed the bottles in a cup, and applied the concoction to my head with fingers crossed. I checked after twenty minutes but the roots still looked dark, so I waited another ten (as directed per the packaging). After thirty minutes, the color resembled Ronald McDonald red, but once I rinsed, it toned down to a strawberry blonde (more the color of Lilu's hair in the movie, The Fifth Element). Not bad, not bad at all, just not what I expected. Once we'd finished admiring my new 'do, we went out to dinner at a nice French restaurant. We spent one more day just hanging out in “Mal,” working on ride reports, eating western food, and finding a couple of paperback novels to enjoy.

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