Up early-ish to go sightseeing at 8am. Two cars, Tata Sumos, are waiting for us and we successfully manage to avoid the one GG gets in. I think the feeling is probably mutual. An Indian family is already in the car we join, Mr, Mrs and Miss “Patel” (don’t know actual name, must find out from Deep). Mr. Patel is with the Dutch consulate in Mumbai, Mrs. Patel is a teacher, and the daughter looks bored. They are acquaintances of Deepak. Vincent, a colleague of Deepak’s in the Netherlands, also gets in the car.
We drive north, out of town and along the coast. The drive will take us three hours, to get to a temple of some renown. The scenery is different again, with lots more palm trees, grand houses and villas set among them, as well as more modest settlements, shops, schools, offices. The road is much clearer than anywhere else we have been. When we are well outside town the scenery changes again with palm tree forests, backwaters, and rice fields. There is no opportunity to stop or take pictures as we’re travelling in convoy. Conversation is intermittent to start with and eventually dries up as people nod off. Ness and I are sat in the back, very uncomfortable if you’ve got long legs, and I can feel my spine twisted awkwardly for most of the journey, and the back seat squeaks with every little bump in the road. A long way out of Mangalore the scenery becomes a bit rockier but essentially remains the same.
At about 11am we reach the place (name?) A huge statue of a sitting Vishnu and a temple town in construction dominate the promontory. Scattered around it are a number of buildings and stalls selling stuff. No-one seems particularly impressed/bothered and we all dutifully trudge into the temple, the small main one, not the unfinished tower. I cajole Ness into doing a simple puja (act of devotion, where you are rewarded with a red dot on your forehead – I do it for the dot), and then we wander round for a bit looking at the minor temples. Wall panels explain in pictures various Hindu principles: heaven and hell, body and soul, “resolves” and emotions (?), illustrations of various deities. Without a guide it is difficult to understand more and our visit is short. Then we walk up the hill to the big Vishnu statue, walk around it, take a few pictures, and wander back down. We meet the Indian family in the waterside restaurant, have a drink and puri. Guts feel like they’re in a lot of trouble and I use an Indian-style loo for the first time, can’t recommend it.
In a group and without a guide it is difficult to get consensus of what to do. The “Patel” family hang around near the restaurant and are keen to head back soon. Vincent, John et.al. are after beer. Damir and Damirka wander about on the beach, as do we, and I get my feet wet in the Arabian Sea. Also an opportunity to convert my trousers into shorts! Would be nice to have a swim but we don’t have time. We drive off with the Patels. Damir and Damirka went to join the others, Damirka wants to see the waterfalls near here, the rest are happy with a cold beer, so we leave them to it.
The drive back is broken with two stops: a quick stop at a beach (just long enough for a cigarette) with two begging kids, and a visit to the Krishna temple at Udupi. This one is in Keralan style, with sloping terracotta tiled roofs. The layout is different, with a central block that holds the diamond-covered “god”, and over the speakers a continuous slow mantra “Sri Krishna ….” Is repeated in hypnotic monotone, sounding more like a Buddhist mantra. The Patels aren’t into temply stuff and wander round, except Mr. Patel who is looking after the sandals outside, looking rather bored. Again, no guide so no explanations. A priest does offer to guide us and if it weren’t for the Patels’ hurry I would have taken him up. A quick cup of tea together and then we continue our drive. We chat with the Patels, intermittently, and doze a bit. We get back to our hotel at 5pm, order some samosas, pakoras and lime sodas, and spend time updating our diaries. Just had a call from TCI rep to advise there is a strike in Kerala, but he tells us to take our 4.30am train as planned and we will be met at the other end. Let’s wait and see. Looking forward to having our holiday to ourselves again. First there is the reception tonight. This is a buffet outside, by the hotel poolside. There is a bar stocked with whiskey, rum, cognac, and on the other side a small buffet. Three semi-circles of chairs are arranged on the lawn. We are the first to arrive, passing Vincent, GG and John who are sat drinking beer inside. Deepak arrives and gradually people arrive: close family and western friends, and the Patels. Slightly awkward conversation initially with many pregnant pauses to start with but the evening soon warms up. We chat with Nandita for a while. She says she is looking forward to moving to the Netherlands. I think she has no mental image of what it will be like, especially when she asks whether Dutch food is spicy! Waiters come round with champagne and fruit juice. The westerners, or Ness and me at least, keep being offered champagne rather than non-alcoholic drinks. Indians must definitely have this impression of westerners as meat-eating drunkards! No-one goes first to help themselves from the buffet. We chat with Nandita’s parents and the Patels. Mr. Nandita and Mr. Patel are pleasantly surprised, I think, at how open and friendly Ness is, and it is noticeable how active Ness is in the conversation compared to Mrs. Nandita and Mrs. Patel who simply add a statement here or there in support of what their husbands are saying. Geoff walks by and tells me I’m far too nice and that it’s all an act. That may be so but at least we are making an effort which is more than can be said for some of the other westerners. We have a mega-early start tomorrow and are the first to leave the party, at 11pm, doing a full round of goodbyes to everyone.