India with Judson 2017 travel blog

Morning fish delivery to restaurants

Sheeja cooking for us

2-year-olds on motorbike getting home from school


Elephants as we arrive

Today both Brian and Jud are feeling healthy. Thank goodness. Both have energy and are feeling positive. It is about 36 degrees, or will be later, and overcast. The weather network say 36 but feels like 41. In this humid, oppressive heat, we decided we needed to find an ATM in order to pay the driver, and for incidentals.

We were told to walk in a certain direction and ended up having to walk the entire length of the beach, around a corner, up some steps, up a hill and panting heavily came to one -- but not working! Directions from many men telling us to carry on up an 80 degree incline hill for another several hundred metres to the next machine -- dragged ourselves in -- not working. By the time we got ourselves back down to the beach, I was brilliant red, overheated, dizzy, and light headed. Time for liquids, followed by an ocean dip.

Meanwhile Jud keeping company with a Russian yoga teacher, who had just arrived from Sweden. He has sampled beetle nut, the red-liquid-producing stimulant that Indians become addicted to over the course of their lives. He describes it as an appetite suppressor and like chewing dried cashews. Once was enough.

A cold shower (there's no hot water) and preparations to head out on the hour drive to Sheeja's. Abi stops at a bank ATM. Success. One can only access Rs 10,000 each day ($200). Abi tells us that some machines only put in Rs 50,000 per day. This means only 5 tourists can access each machine each day, if they take out the maximum of $200.

Arrived at Sheeja's for another fantastic meal (potato coconut curry, puri, popadams, dry fry spicy chicken, dry fry fish, coconut chutney, some new dish tasting like a crepe, beet root and carrot grated with spices, and a pink (beet tinged) water drink.

We are always served first, she will ply us until we are bursting. Then Vasu comes home from work for lunch and eats with Abi the driver, and Karti, the 5 year old nephew who doesn't go to school. Then Sheeja gets to eat what is left.

We decided to drive up past the Sivananda Ashram near Nayar Dam and go see the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre, so Sheeja wanted the whole family to come along. Vasu took the afternoon off work as a coolie, and sped off on his Honda 125 motorcycle to pick up the twins from play school, dropped them off at home, then went to pick up Vishnu from his school.

We all piled into Abi's Toyota and headed out. Different prices for foreigners and Indians, adults, and kids. It was feeding time at 4 pm so we saw about 8 elephants. The two females were fed separately from the males and all were eating sugar cane. One big guy finished before the others and wanted more. When they swing a leg they are frustrated, unhappy, or afraid. A big bull tusker was kept chained under a roof structure apart from the others. We were told that he went mad some years ago. The mahouts and their assistants were close by their charges while we were there. These Indian elephants have smaller ears, and pink mottled trunks. They used to 'bless' the visitors by putting their trunks on our heads, but no more. The government stopped this practise saying it was animal cruelty to make the elephants do this.

There were aggressive monkeys there that came at 12 year-old Vishnu, and Abi waved his arms and stomped his feet and yelled to get them to back off. There were also 8 inch long millipedes along the walkway.

We left as the mosquitos started biting and dusk was settling in. We stopped for a brief moment while Jud took pictures of many small spotted deer, but drove on by the tiger safari area and the strange crocodile sanctuary as they appeared closed for the day. We stopped for green coconuts that Jud treated everyone to, and on the way back to Sheeja's we purchased a new lid to their roof top well-water-holding-tank, as the plastic of the old one was disintegrating.

Darkness settled in, so we said our good-byes and began the hour-long journey back to Kovalum Beach and our Hotel. As Jud famously said upon reaching our destination, "Even just being a passenger in Indian traffic is exhausting."

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