The End of India

February 1, 2010

Image of Thiruvalluvar statue, rocks and people
Image of Thiruvalluvar statue

No, I'm not going home just yet but I am done going South. There just isn't any more South to go. I am in Kanyakamuri, the Southern most point of the the most Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. From my hotel window, I can see the waves crash where the Bay of Bengal meets the Arabian Sea. The sea breeze has power. More air moves than anywhere I have been in India so far.

With the exception of the cyclone remnants that passed through Jaipur, I've seen little in my travels through India that qualifies as weather.

This is no exception. The air is strong but it is peaceful. The sky is thinly overcast. Not dark but shaded. In a less interesting location, Kanyakamuri's attractions probably wouldn't make the cut, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth seeing.

The waterfront is dominated by crashing waves and two modern day monuments. One is a memorial to a 20th century Swami. The other is a statute of a poet who wrote in Tamil in the 1st Century BC. The 133ft tall granite statue is more impressive but I'm really just here to dip my toe into the water.

It's colder than I expected.

Today my whirlwind tour of Tamil Nadu moves on to Maduri en route to Tanjor. I don't know if I will stay in Maduri. I'm not even completely sure of Tanjor. With only a month left for the entire East coast, time has become critical.

That's what forced my hand in Kerala. Given more time, I would have at least tried to do the Backwaters. But I couldn't see how to make it work as a solo traveler with limited time and patience. Instead, I went directly from Mysore to Periyar, spent three days, and then went directly to Kanyakamuri.

Well, directly is a bit of an exaggeration. Coming in, I changed buses in Emakulam and Kottayam. On the way out, I changed in Trivandrum. Both trips involved many hours on ordinary buses that seemed to stop at every other fruit stand. Fortunately, these are not the rust buckets that ply the highways of Rajastatan and Uttar Pradesh. They may not be posh but they have all their upholstery.

Image of otters
Image of eagle

In between, I spent three full days enjoying the densely forested hill sides and remote wildlife of Periyar. I don't believe I have ever had to crop a photo of an elephant before. Birds, yes. Elephants, no. But I did see them, along with eagles, otters, and guars. The latter are essentially huge buffalo. In an amusing case of linguistic symmetry, guars are commonly mislabeled as ‘bison’. Despite their size, and numerous safaris I never managed anything better than ‘herd’ photos.

Oh well. It was still worth doing and there is more wildlife to come. Much of the current rush is to preserve time for the rhinos, gibbons, and other splendid creatures that populate the forests of Asam.