December 20, 2000: Day 16, Kanya Kumari
Date: 12/20/00, 9:37 AM EST (8:07 PM in India)
Re: Message from Internet
We've managed to find another internet cafe in Kanya Kumari... the very tip of India. This is pretty much a midevil town with a bunch of large mediocre hotels overlooking the humble homes of the townsfolk below. The view from our balcony includes a perhaps too-close view/sniff of village life, and beautiful vistas of the sunrise and sunset, turbulent seas, and the two islands off the tip of india that contain a memorial and temple.
We decided not to visit the main temple here on account of Gina and Rashmi's monthly woes (at which time they are specifically forbidden from all Hindu temples) and the fact that I had already gotten myself kicked out of one temple in Alleppey after some miscommunication with the door keepers (Guru asked them and they apparently didn't see my white non-Hinduness until after I'd entered). Gina was a successful imposter, however, at Alleppey and elsewhere as needed... people in general seem to think she's more Indian than Rashmi, partially because Gina is wearing Churidars and Rashmi is wearing shorts.
Kanya Kumari also has a museum about Swami Vivekananda, a famous philosopher/holy man that brought Indian philosophy to the west in the late 1800's. The exhibits amount to a bunch of pictures and a long textual story that you read in 45 installments... but this is actually very interesting.
We also didn't go to the island with the huge statue of Swami V. because of rough seas, but got a good view of it from the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial on the mainland, where we also took in the sunset later in the day (it was a bit less crowded than the beach and square on account of having to pay 1.5 cents to house your shoes while inside the memorial).
Kanya Kumari is a holy place for Hindus so there are thousands and thousands of pilgrims here to visit the temples and immerse themselves in the sea. It was very festive and interesting to watch, and we were amused the number of times today that people asked whether they could photograph us (sometimes at great distances waving and shouting so we'ld pose, e.g., while on the upper platform of the Gandhi memorial).
What we found most interesting the houses and life styles of the local people, who as noted live pretty much in midevil conditions... around a square, e.g., below our hotel at which all come to get water at the one community water pump. There was a wedding going on, while goats grazed the flowers off of the waiting getaway car, and the fishermen were coming and going from the beach in long boats made from multiple palm tree stems tied together, some with interesting conical sails. The markets were also great fun, those that were for the locals that is... very interesting to see the veges and fruits. All this kept us distracted and led us to miss most of the major tourist sites... oh well, we're not disappointed, however...
Tomorrow we take off for Coimbatore and we may write again from there or from Ooty after that, if internet access is available. Our trip up will be 14 hours but should be comfy as we're in 1st class AC, have our own compartment with 4 lie-down berths, and we've got a nice supply of carefully washed oranges, pineapples, and bananas, among other tasty supplies to keep us entertained.
By the way, we had a great time roughing it on the house boats in Alleppey, where vast areas are accessible only by boat. Saw some neat birds, a water snake, and lots of beautifully outfitted people (as are everywhere).
Good food and health continues... down here we're seeing more north indian, so Kanya K has been a change from Alleppey and Goa but it's been good here too.
Better stop now before the power fails!
Hope all is well.
- Stephan and Gina
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