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Embedded Photos: 1.Thousand Pillared Hall, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 2.Bracelet Vendor, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 3.Ganesh, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 4.Courtyard Mural, Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, India
SRI LANKA Colombo Oct 25 Oct 26 Oct 27-29 Nuwara Eliya Oct 30 Oct 31 Kandy Nov 1-5 (1) Nov 1-5 (II) Polonnaruwa Nov 6 Sigiriya & Dambulla Nov 7 Colombo Nov 8

INDIA Ft.Cochin Nov 9-15 (I) Nov 9-15 (II) Nov 16 Nov 17-18 Madurai Nov 19 Nov 20 Tiruchirapalli Nov 21 Nov 22 Nov 23 Chennai Nov 24 Nov 25-26 Nov 27-28 Ft.Cochin Nov 29 Lakshadweep Nov 30-Dec 4 (I) Nov 30-Dec 4 (II) Trans-India Train Dec 5-7 (I) Dec 5-7 (II) Siliguri Dec 8 Darjeeling Dec 9 Dec 10-13 Dec 14 Sikkim Dec 15 Dec 16-20 Dec 21-23 Dec 24 Dec 25 Darjeeling Dec 26 Dec 27-Jan 2 Siliguri Jan 3 Jaigon (Bhutan) Jan 4 Kolkata Jan 5-6

THAILAND Bangkok Jan 6-13 (I) Jan 6-13 (II) Jan 6-13 (III)

Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, INDIA, Nov 2004

India Flag INDIA

November 19. ERNAKULUM to MADURAI  When we left Ernakulum for Madurai we had a small fiasco getting to our train.  We didn't have to leave until afternoon so we had plenty of time to get to the station but we ended up going to the wrong one.  Since our train was going north we thought that it would leave from the Ernakulum Town Station and crammed into a single tuk tuk to get there.  When we arrived I went to the inquiry booth to ask about the track number and was told that we needed to get to the Ernakulum Junction station. They weren't so far apart but with the traffic it made for a chaotic jaunt through Ernakulum.  We gave up on the tuk-tuks and jumped into an Ambassador taxi.  Rob told the driver we were in a hurry and that taxi driver, with that bulky Ambassador, navigated the narrow frenzied streets of Ernakulum with amMeenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Indiaazing agility, the horn blaring the entire way.  We arrived in plenty of time. A board told us where to stand to board our assigned carriage.  The carriage numbers on the platform were a bit confusing at first.  Rob watched the bags while I searched out the right place to stand.  Looking down the platform I couldn't see the number for our carriage in either direction so I walked to the far end to get a look at the signs that were farther away.  When I looked back at the signs that I had already past I noticed that they read with different numbers on each side.  You had to look at the side of the sign that was in the direction that we were going. That meant that our carriage sign hadn't been far from the main entrance but we couldn't see our number because we were standing on the wrong side.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, I returned to Rob and we waited under the ceiling fan until we heard the arrival of our train being called.   

Our seats were in three-tier non-AC sleeper car but there weren't seat numbers assigned so we just grabbed what was available.  There were more people in the car than there were seats available but that didn't seem to matter. Some people were already lying down onMeenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India the bunks while other lined up along the bottom berths.  The carriage was divided up into sections with three bunks on either side and a set of double bunks across the aisle along the window.  Luggage was stuffed above and below, any place it would fit. The windows were open so there was a steady breeze through the compartment and the people were all pretty relaxed.  A guy sitting across from us was on a business trip from northern India. Interestingly his bags were the only ones that were chained to the train.  I didn't know if that was a statement about him or about train travel in northern India.  The local people on the train didn't seem overly concerned about their bags.  As the train moved north people gradually got out and shifted around until we had a window seat.  It was just a four hour ride to Palghat, our transfer point. 

Palghat was a pretty big station with several platforms.  Our train to Madurai wasn't due to depart for another two hours.  We considered trying to get on an earlier train but since we were traveling overnight it seemed better to not arrive into Madurai any earlier than was already planned.  As it was would be getting in at about sunrise.  So, we had plenty of time to kill in Palghat station.  Fortunately there were a number of snack stands and small restaurants on one of the platforms.  We planted ourselves on a bench with our bags piled around us and Rob went to buy a couple of drinks.  The snack stand closest to us tried to tout us a bit and when Rob went to investigate the stands farther down the platform one of the guys from the first stand tried to follow him and stake "claim" to anything that he purchased. There must have been some sort of kickback systems or he had quoted us too high of a price and was going to clue in the other guys.  It was hard to tell what was up but it always seemed suspicious when Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Indiasomeone started following you.  We didn't see them do that to any of the local customers.  Rob dodged the guy and went back to buy drinks from another stand when he wasn't looking.  

We waited on the first main platform because it was packed with food stalls but our train was due to depart on track number one.  It was a "newer" track that looked like it was added as an after thought to the station.  It was a bit shorter and just had a single track leaving from one side.  The track couldn't accommodate through traffic, only trains originating from Palghat. We we arrived it was totally dark and there wasn't a train in sight.  Two hours feels like a long layover but the time when by pretty fast.  There were plenty of people around to watch and a tiny kitten kept making underneath the benches, often followed by pestering kids.  As it got closer to our train departure we dragged our bags down the platform to one of the little restaurants.  They were closing up for the evening and were out of most things but they managed to scrape up some chicken and rice for us, which was nice of them.  Eating inside the restaurant was preferable to grabbing food at one of the stands.  It was pretty much the same food but the platform suffered from the occasional stench of urine, especially after a train had just stopped through.  They weren't really strict on the use of the toilets while the trains were at a station and after a long stop there was a fair amount of stuff left behind.  

A train materialized on track one and the platform lights had come on but the train was dark.  We had second class sleeper tickets and we hoped to upgrade to a first class non-A/C compartment.  The open seating section carriage was filling fast as people came early tMeenakshi Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Indiao grab a spot.  We waited outside the locked door or our carriage for a while and people started to amass.  A lone cow came foraging along the platform, sniffing its wet nose towards us, but it got little attention from the locals.  Cows had free run in India and it was as normal to see a cow as it was to see a stray dog in other parts of the world, except that the cows were revered.  People didn't mess with them because it was bad for the karma.  After some waiting Rob went to check out the other carriages and found the door on the first class non-A/C car open.  It was totally dark inside and there were no attendants in sight but there was a man was hovering near one of the two person cabins.  He advised us to just sit in one our cabin of choice while we waited for the ticket taker and he thought it was likely that we would get the upgrade.  Once the seating assignments got posted on the door of the carriage you could see which spaces were available.  Eventually a ticket taker came around and okayed our little two person cabin.  It was called "first-class" but it wasn't anything luxurious.  The cabins were well worn and the vinyl beds didn't have any sheets.  There was a descript little sink in the corner and a couple of fans overhead.  Our route to Madurai took us up and over Western Ghats (India's western mountain range) so we weren't worried about the heat and the added privacy that we got with the two person cabin was great.