Saturday, December 19, 2009
After a plane trip of about 19 hours I'm here in Chennai! The trip wasn't so bad, I basically watched lots of movies. There was one about a romance between someone with Asperger's and his neighbor that was probably the most interesting. The recycled air and bad food took its toll. I have a throat infection and some indigestion. I should have stuck to my resolve to eat only the food I brought, but they made this special vegan meal and everything, it was so nice. The airplane staff of Etihad took good care of us in many ways.
The taxi drivers puller their usual stunts as they tried to railroad people fresh off the airplane into their taxis. But my new friend Mark and I hung onto our baggage and made our way to the government sanctioned taxi kiosk where you can pay in advance and things are a little more above board.
The car we got into was like a great big black beetle. No seatbelts or anything. Many of the cars have written on the back "No Hand Signal" which presumably is a throwback to the days when drivers had to signal by sticking their hands out the window. A lot of cars still do that actually. The honking and debris on the road was perhaps the most alarming. Indian drivers are constantly honking at each other. The major driving technique seems to be mostly to pay attention to who is honking and dodge them, instead of signaling or following preset rules of the road. There's lots of motorcycles, mopeds and three wheeled "autorickshaws".
Some tense moments getting to the Sea Shell Inn, on Greams Road south of Egmore station, since the streets don't have much in the way of numbers. But we found it eventually. I spent the rest of the day sleeping, eating food I brought and being confused about what time/day it was (arrived at the hotel about 5am on Saturday Dec. 5). I had to ditch some people I met at the airport; there was this great Indian couple who invited me and some others to come hang out with them in Chennai but I wasn't up for going out.
The next day I walked around Chennai a bit, trying to figure out logistics of getting to Sadhana Forest for Monday. It's not a very pleasant city to be in. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't so shocked upon arrival. I just wanted to get out to a quiet forest. The best thing I found on my walk was the public library which had a good collection of books about Gandhi which I didn't have time to read. The photo here is the street outside Egmore train station. The yellow vehicle is an autorickshaw. There are tons of them around the city and they were really annoying. Drivers would follow me for quite a ways trying to get me to pay them 50 Rs for a "tour" of the city. The Lonely Planet guide says that mostly tours consist of them taking you to stores they have agreements with.
On Monday morning I woke up later than I should have and caught a late bus to Pondicherry. I'm happy to get out of Chennai and move on to somewhere more peaceful. Not that there isn't any natural beauty in Chennai too, there is some. Between the garbage strewn banks of the sewage river and the honking streets there are some enduring and lovely flowers :-) .
BTW, I'm writing this a few weeks after taking these photos. I'm taking my time making blog posts.