It is still hard to believe we are in India, the final country of our Megamoon.
Arriving off the train at the end of the line at Kanyakumari, right at the southernmost tip of India, we had arrived into the middle of a bustling Indian tourist spot. Here is the point where the three seas (the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean) collide.
We got to experience our first Hindu temple of Kumari Amman, to enter the temple we had to remove our shoes, check our camera in at security, then Bee had to ensure her shoulders were covered, oh and Tim had to remove his T-shirt and walk in bare chested! In the damp and dimly lit interior we visited the various icons, and saw the votive candles being lit and puja being given.
Here you are able to see the sunset as the moon rises in the same spot, and also sunrise from the same coast, unfortunately the weather had other ideas and the clouds obscured this phenomenon from us.
Joining the throngs of domestic tourists we joined the queue for the ferry over to the memorial to Swami Vivekananda, on a rock four hundred metres offshore. As the queue snaked back and forth and around the building, for over an hour we shuffled along with Indian families, with a chorus of "what's your country?" and posing for numerous photographs.
Back on dry land we stopped off at the Gandhi memorial building, designed like an Orission temple, there is a central plinth were some of his ashes are stored here and a brief trip around the museum of the wandering monk.
Travelling further north by train we reached Madurai. Here it began to feel like we had entered the India we were expecting. Bustling city, with crazy driving weaving in and out of three wheelers, scooters, pedestrians and the ubiquitous cows all with their horns blaring. Firecrackers going off in the street, and the smells of gorgeous food cooking at street stalls mixed with the pungent odours of open sewage and rotting rubbish, all seemed to encapsulate India in a split second.
The city is dominated by the huge labyrinthine structure of the Sri Meenakshi temple. The vast six hectare complex is surrounded by towers, the highest of which is 52m and carved with ornate array of gods, goddesses, demons and heroes. Disappointingly most of the temple sections are off limits to non-Hindus.
A fascinating afternoon visit to the Ghandi Memorial museum, gave us a detailed account of India's struggle for independence from 1757 to 1947. Though when asked while going round the museum the usual "what's your country?" question, we were little ashamed to say we were British, after some of the atrocities highlighted there. It was here in Madurai in 1921 that Ghandi first started wearing the dhoti, as did Tim in 2013, now moving from his Myanmar longyi, to his new lighter Indian style one, much to the amusement of the locals.
Unfortunately it was here in Madurai, that the dreaded Indian food poisoning struck Tim down violently, our trip into the western ghats delayed for twenty-four hours.
Heading off in a mini bus (literally a "mini" bus) we wound our way up into hill country to Kodaikanal. Here the temperature dropped significantly, having us rooting through our bags in search long forgotten fleeces and woolly socks!
Set around a small lake the town is really relaxed, we spent our time walking, boating on the lake, and exploring nearby view points and waterfalls. We stayed in a cosy home stay with snugly duvets and the chance to sit round a camp-fire in the evening star gazing. This couldn't have felt like a more different India.
Here we got to experience the train booking highlights and pitfalls. Only having "wait list" tickets, meaning you cannot actually board your desired train, we entered the frantic world of Taktal bookings. The queue was joined at 7am, though the process doesn't start until 10am, being first come first served your position counts if you are to have a hope of a ticket. Luckily we got confirmed berths on the next days long night train to Mysore.
After a two hour hair raising drive back down the mountain we got to the station. Travelling by train here is a real highlight, after hunting out dinner of dosas, idli, and chapatti from nearby stalls we boarded our train carriage. We settled down onto our bunks and tucked ourselves in, wrapped in the blankets and sheets provided we were rocked to sleep as we made our way north to Mysore.