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SOUTHERN INDIA    DIARY  4

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 I am still in Hyderabad like in Diary 3.
1/3 2020.
 The included breakfast is only served after nine - Indians tend to sleep late in general. However, the receptionist I just woke up pay for my breakfast in the restaurant next door.
The view to the other side of my room reveals a huge temple-like building. Then I head out in the rather Sunday-dead town, to find my first sight: Charminar Minaret.

It is a short walk away, but it take me a long time, as it is allied with a Sunday flee-market. I find a holy cow and some odd-shaped coins, along with some great motives. I fare from see the number of temples I recall from northern India - unless I think of Nepal?

The Charminar Minaret is found in the middle of a huge square, with a lot of people and small stalls. It is a beautiful building, resembling no other mosques I have seen. One can climb it to the first level, but being pale make it rather expensive.

Close by is the magnificent Mecca Masjid. It is like things are either magnificent of malicious due in India. I find some tea, and get some more selfies taken. I actually think I could travel for free, could I get the Indians to pay 10 Rupee for each selfie or picture.

I find some back-alleys with goats and cows, overfilled shops, huge stews and then Chowmahalla Palace. It was the home of the former rulers of India, and magnificent as one can expect. It is made up by several huge buildings, ponds, green gardens, a collection of real old cars and carriages.

Something big is going to happen here: Around 100 men are binding flowers together, even more are working with numerous lamps and cables. And even more with pavilions, tables, chairs and other decorations. It is a private get-to-gather thing, just for a few thousand close friends. Someone does have all the money! I see the most, including the throne hall, china collection, armoury and the car collection.

Next stop is eleven kilometres across town, and while I walk back to my car, I get an offer from a tuc-tuc driver I can't refuse: 4,50. He talk a lot in Hindi all the way, and want to stop at several other sights. One is a car collection, having a huge car and bicycle in front. We pass a massive new building, which will be a public school. Another is formed like a huge fish, hosting the National Fisheries Development Board. I just want to get to Golconda Fort.

It is yet one more absolutely massive fortress. Some parts are in pristine state, other are ruins. It is Sunday, and here are quite some locals, but I still don't see a single pale. I see the most on the steep climb to the top. From here, there is a great view over part of the city and the lower buildings and ruins.

Here are also a little temple, build around some odd shaped natural rocks. I feel bad about letting my driver wait too long, and head back down. And find, that he have gone. Glad I didn't pay for the entire tour. I find lunch - or at least two cakes, which I call lunch.

Then I start walking the 1700 metres to the next site. I man on a moped with his daughter at two, and son at one year, offers me a lift. A want to pay, but he refuses: I am a visitor in his country! It does not work that way at the ticket counter. Actually, It does not work at all! The guy is at the nearby mosque, praying. The Hindi gatekeeper ask us to wait. When I finally get to pay, the camera cost the same as me.

But Qutb Shahi Tombs are really impressive. They call them selves; "Largest necropolis in the world", and it might be, depending how you measure. Here are not that many tombs, but some rich kings have some huge one made here. They are being restored, and some look magnificent.

I do the full tour around - without a guide once again. I see no reason to have someone dragging me around, telling me things I can't remember for one minute, anyway. And there are plates with a lot of information everywhere. I guess it will look even better, when the renovation is finished.

I find a tuc-tuc driver who will drive me home for 4,50, and I defiantly don't want to walk eleven kilometres, through the modern city! We don't get long before his tuc-tuc dies, but he find another one, and the price is the same. I do a bit more walking around in the Old Town, and find new alleys and angles - and a haircut.

Then it is back at the office to work a bit. But the noise and mosquitoes make it a living hell, and I head next door for a proper meal. First, I get a cone-shaped pancake/sweet egg-thing with some dip, then rice in yoghurt. Finish up with yet one more milktea/Chai/tea/masala or whatever they call it. Although, not that many around here have added ginger.
Tourist in Hyderabad.

2. I have the longest drive ahead of me, and try to make an early start. I even skip the included breakfast! It is a bit more than 600 kilometres, but I doubt the six hours the GPS estimate can do it. I actually doubt I can make it today! At least, the water have returned, and I get to wash off yesterday's dust. Toilet paper is an unknown concept in India. If I'm lucky, I get some plastic-like and brittle napkins, or a newspaper, when I ask. But there is a spray next to the toilet.

The car is where I left it, and at six in the morning, the traffic is light - Hyderabad-style. It is pretty much the familiar dry landscape, but here are some pointy granite-boulder hills: Elephant buts. Where the fields are watered, I see some tobacco, bananas, papaya, sunflower, a lot of chilli, newly prickled rice, Chrysanthemums and a lot of crops I don't recognise at 80 Km/h. In some areas, corn are dried along the road, and the dead stems are gathered in huge numbers for cattle food? In other places, it is tons of chilli that are dried. I also see a "new" Euphorbia, more like a little tree, with a stem. I am now entering the regions of Tamil Nadu & Chennai.
 

I don't get to see that many birds either, but I recognises the white Ibis and the Alexander parrots. Where I have been at around 500 metres height, I now get down to 200 metres some parts of the way. It seems a bit more fertile - or easy to water. Everywhere I drive, I pass some small vans, measuring the air pollution. Considering the black cloud busses and trucks exhorts, I thing the get high numbers. And the numerous fires everywhere.

Despite it is a four-lane toll-road, there are no exit and entry ramps. Just blocks on the main road, slowing us down at intersections.
I see quite some of the special Indian harvesters: A tractor sit on top of the machinery. Might be John Deer?

At eleven, I am half way, due to a great toll road. If that keep up, I might get to see some interesting sight today! The sun finally break through. Here are still huge herds of goats, water buffalos and Indian oxen on the road, and caravans of ox wagons with sand.  I skip lunch (had 6 Oreos left), and keep my foot buried. I pass a single speed-control, but the limit is 100, and my car can only do 80.

In a desperate effort to actually get to my target today, I only stop once to make a photo: An old bridge. No other stops at all, until I have to feed the car, 80 kilometres from my goal. That mean I only got blurry photos of the crops, the dry rivers, temples and alike. But I am stressing, and I can't find other ways to save time.

I check, if they accept Visa card, and get the car filled. But my card is not working! Neither of them actually. I drive with one of the guys to two villages with ATMs, but they bounces my cards. I can pay 2000 of the 2600, but lack the remaining 8. Back to try and suck-up some diesel, but their hose is too short.

I end up trying a 5/4 inch garden-hose, and get to drink and inhale some diesel, along with being soaked in it. But get nothing in their Jerrycan. Try a bigger town with a bank. They won't even bother to try my card, nor exchange US dollars. I have wasted the two hours, which I have gained by driving intensely fast, I burps diesel and are desperate! Finally, I get away with giving them US$20.

A bit passed six, at dusk, I reach Vellore. It is a fairly big city with around 200.000 citizens. I find the hotel in the middle of town, and even find a place to park. I can't help being a bit worried, when it happens. But the man at the hotel want cash! Find a nearby ATM, and at least, two of my cards works now: A huge relief!

I do a short loop in the busy area to find dinner, bisques and water along with several teas. Then it is home to work and sleep a lot. Well, I had expected the 600+ Km to be worse. The road to Vellore.

3. I am up early, and head straight for the fortress. It is an impressive wall within the moat, but inside, only a temple and some trees are found. I head back through the bus station, and see a bit of the city. It is not really that pretty, nor interesting, and I head on.

Next sight is only 136 kilometres away, but it is by minor roads and through a huge town. The GPS have a "short-cut", and I end up on some gravel roads, which never the less have their share of huge trucks. The altitude change from the "usual" 500 metres all the way down to sea level, and it get more fertile or at least green.

Here are huge road trees, forming a tunnel some of the way. Where I have seen my share of mosques and Hindi temples, I now see a church. There start to be some masons along the road, making the most amassing sculptures.
I reach Mamallapuram / Mahabalipuram half pass ten, and for once, I feel I have time to see what I actually came for. 

I book into a hotel, and it is a experience by it selves. I get a nice room with a balcony, facing the beach with all the fishing vessels. It is a perfect sandy beach, but without any tourists. I later learn is have been a bad year for the shop keepers, and with the Coronavirus, the season have died completely, too early. I do my best to help, and buy a lot of fine stone statues.

I walk along the beach for some time, and find a lot of real nice snails encasings - with live snails. It is apparently a by-catch from the fishermen. One of them is really odd, and unknown to me. I end up it the outer end of town, and find my way back.

My next sight is Arjuna's Penance, and it is truly fantastic: Some huge granite boulders are balancing on even bigger ones, or carved into temples. The entrance fee it 40 Rupees - unless your are pale, then it id 600. Well, I see it fine from outside the fence. A young stonecutter want to tell me about the place - and show me some of his work, which - by the way - is for sale. Well, it does look nice, and I bite.

The temples, made out of one monolith are real impressive, and the bas-relief on the larger boulders fantastic. Here are also some caves, carved out of the bedrock, with impressive ornaments. The entire area is swarming with red-dressed pilgrims, and they are having a great time.

I walk a bit through town and find the beach. It is packed with red pilgrims and here is another temple; Shore Temple, made from the local granite, and with so many carvings. I head back along the beach, to empty my pockets from stone-works.

On my way to the next sight I have found in the town, I see that most houses have nice chalk-drawings on their door-steps. Some only in white, some in colours. Others have the same patens in dust. Here are a few cows scattered around, and as always, they look so well fed. I see some other old temples and alike in the town, but head on.

I reach another part of the richly decorated bedrock, and walk into the area along with the pilgrims. On a huge boulder, a temple is carved out; Iswara, and it offers a fantastic view. The palm meadows, the sea and the boulder-like bedrock, scatted with red pilgrims.

A bit odd-looking, a light tower have been build on one boulder. Underneath the first temple, a huge cave have been made; Mahishamardhini. Again, it have some real impressive bas-reliefs. As I work further out of town, I pass a whole area with stone-carvings and alike. Some are several metres high, some a few centimetres.

The trail end at another set of amassing temples; Five (Pancha) Rathac, chiselled out of monoliths. The combination of untouched boulders and delicate temples, made from other boulders are fantastic. Vellore Fort, Fantastic Mamallapuram.
It is time for Diary 5 and the south-eastern part.

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