We pay a little extra to hire our own private bus and arrive early morning in Marmallapuram, in time to explore the monuments. The earliest monuments here date back to the 7th century AD, and have been carved out of the surrounding rocky landscape. It is a smaller version of Petra and remind us of the ruined cities in Sri Lanka.
We had planned to cycle to each monument but no bikes are available so we walk the 4 km instead. It is quite hot and humid but the occasional breeze and shade from the trees give us a little respite. It is interesting to walk the streets and experience life close up. The trees are lined with artisans carving statues, and cows mingle easily with the ladies dressed in bright orange and red sarees. These are the shades worn by the Hindu devotees unlike the white worn by the Buddhist pilgrims. The colours lend a brightness and cheerfulness to the cities that is lacking in the laughter and dancing often seen in African cities. I don’t get the same sense of happiness that I felt in Africa.
The monuments here are all from the Hindu faith and are mostly temples. I was intrigued by the lighthouse which was constructed to guide sailors safely to shore. The original structure, which was actually lit by fire stands next to the more modern construction still in use today. We are quite exhausted by lunch time and walk down to a cafe on the beach. It is beautiful expanse of white sand, littered with the boats of the fisherman who live here.
Many sit on the hot sand, stringing or repairing their nets in time for the next catch. The cafe owner’s bring out a tray with a tantalising array of fish, lobster and prawns. We choose an assortment of seafood dishes ad indulge in the catch of the day.
After a bit of a rest, we visit the Shore Temple in the evening, so named because it is on the banks of the ocean. A beautiful piece of architecture and a very scenic location.
We visit the Moonraker restaurant that night to dine on Tuna steak, which is tasty despite being drenched in garlic butter. The restaurant reminds us that this area too was influenced by the 1970’s culture of the west. We get a few staples for our train ride the next and turn in. It has been a long day. The hotel we are staying at is very basic but we are thankful for the whirring of the fan which allows us to drift off to sleep.
“He who litters, opens Evil’s door” sign in Mamallapurum