After Madurai, our next stop was Trichy to see more of the temples. The ride from Madurai to Trichy was on that same lovely highway, so we made it there by noon, I found us a cheap room, we dropped our bags, and went to lunch downstairs for a veg thali on an actual banana leaf, which we haven't seen since we were in Malaysia. It was tasty but spicy, which didn't sit well with Colin.
|view of the Rock Fort Temple|
We then got back on the bikes to find our way to the Rock Fort Temple, which sits on a giant rock that is supposed to resemble the penis of Shiva (there are countless Shiva penises in the temples). You climb the stone steps, all 437 of them to the top and walk into a tiny and rather unimpressive temple at the top. But the view was worth the climb. It's probably the highest point in the city, so you have a 360 degree view over the city, the river, and can see the big temple, Ranganathaswamy Temple in the distance. Plus, there was a nice breeze blowing, so we stood and watched the rhesus monkeys eat a bag of fruit that a visitor tossed them along with leftover rice and curry(?) out of the trash can. They were apparently feeling a little parched after their meal, so the monkeys' next stop was the drinking water station, where we watched two of them turn on the faucets to help themselves to a drink (they weren't very conservation-minded, since they didn't bother to turn it off once they finished). Needless to say, we didn't refill our water bottles while we were there.
|gopuram getting a facelift|
We made our way to the Ranganathaswamy Temple the next morning, having to weave through the city streets, dodging oxcarts, goats, and cattle in the market surrounding the temple in addition to the usual gamut of vehicles. This temple is old and massive, one of the biggest in India. It was the first one we've seen that doesn't have every surface painted in an explosion of psychedelic colors. We climbed to the view spot, on the roof of one of the buildings to get an overview of the temple grounds. It was huge! From that vantage, it looked very impressive with its towering gopurams and gold dome centerpiece. From groundlevel though, it was less so. My personal problem with the temples here is that there is so much going on visually, and it's all way above eye level so it's hard see. I did get blessed by another temple elephant (it can't hurt) and made Colin get blessed too (maybe it will help with his intermittent gastrointestinal issues) before we left.
|Colin getting blessed|
Before we got on the road to Thanjavur, I stopped at the restaurant downstairs for another thali lunch since Colin wasn't up to eating. It was a strange experience- eating solo, with an audience. As soon as I walked in, a man led me to a table, I sat down, ordered, and a swarm of people came with bowls and buckets of different items to put on my banana leaf. Then they all stood there and watched me eat. I mixed my dhal into the rice, scooped up bits of the vegetables and mixed that in, and shoveled the whole mess into my piehole with vigor. They seemed to approve and kept offering me more scoops of things to add to my leaf until I couldn't eat any more. That and a fresh lime soda to drink, all for 60 rupees (1.20 USD). Once I scrubbed the lentils out from under my fingernails, we loaded the bikes and got back in the saddles.