In Chennai and Mahabalipuram
Wake at 6am thanks to mozzies. No time to kill the flying diesel engine droner and go back to sleep before Patrick, Bajaj, Tim and Wani appear within five minutes of each other. Patrick is just early and Bajaj is worried that his driver is going to wait for me on the wrong flight. Two are coming to Chennai within 15 minutes of each other or would be if mine wasn’t delayed by an hour. Spend hour in waiting room wondering why airport code for Mangalore is IXE. Believe that half the plane has been lost en route when it finally arrives. Overhead lockers reveal exposed outer hull, seats more like deckchairs which require putting up and the food (maple and walnut bread) and drink is plain and bare.
In Chennai, Murran the driver has assumed that plane’s inability to land at correct time is in fact my fault and proceeds to moan about his life, the battered AC Triumph he drives and the tardiness of foreigners for the forty minutes it takes to drive to hotel. After check-in, I’m off again to Mahabalipuram [http://www.mahabalipuram.co.in/] to “view the carvings” and placate the guy who wrote the itinerary. Air conditioning in car is on polar winter setting and windows don’t wind down so it may be thirty degrees outside but it’s minus five inside and hard to breathe. Five minutes in and a bike hits the rear of the car, setting him off again on how it isn’t his car anyway, it’s a company car and the company are cheapskates so it doesn’t have anything useful like a horn or a clutch that works. As if to demonstrate this, taxi actually conks out thirty miles from city.
Mahabalipuram is big tourist attraction with steep mark up for foreigners. Manage to impress guide with ability to dump hawkers aplenty and just generally stroll around with him at my own pace. All the carvings there are 7th century but involve Stonehenge-like effort as every carving is out of rock dragged from 150 km away. Time is catching up with town however. The Indian Ocean is whittling through the cliffs where some of the temples are perched with some speed.Posted on February 24, 2001 #India