Every full moon day a bunch of pilgrims gather at the Main entrance of the Tiruvanamalai and begin a 14 km walk around the hill which houses eight smaller temples. Everyone has to walk barefoot. Some walk in the day when its about thirty six degrees outside and the streets are boiling hot. Some pilgrims prefer the late evening or at night to do this. This is like a family affair. People bring their kids and make a day out of it.
This year a friend suggested we go for it. All plans are made at the last moment. Thankfully the wife said yes, she’s a nice person. Mum agreed to lend us the car which was sitting idle at home and for once i had a little money to spare. The night before the day we were to leave the four of us got together for a cup of coffee at Hatti (sad that it wasn’t Koshy’s) the plan was set. I wanted to come back to Bangalore by 8 pm at night but Murugan secretly plotted the next morning return. We met at 7 am in the morning after i picked u the boys, put a coffee in Hatti and hit the road. It has been a while since i have driven anywhere. The last time was just after the wedding where i drove to Kottayam and back to Cochin. The roads were brilliant till we hit Krishnagiri. Stopped for Breaky and some kickass coffee. Tamilnadu has the world’s best coffee, anyone who ways otherwise is lying. Anyways back on the road towards Pondi and the road was shit. Craters in the middle of the road, half the road was laid and the other half was barely even filled up. Tough ride but thankfully it was the day so that went pretty decently except a few speed breakers that i jumped over. Murugan tried to navigate sitting behind, Anand explained what we were going to do when we got to the temple while Noel was lighting smokes for us. By and large the drive was peaceful. Nobody hit each other. Good days.
Got to the city and headed to the temple. It was hot as Hell. nobody wanted to walk in the heat, group conscience was that we start the walk at about 6. Met Pratul at the temple. The rascal had bunked work and had reached a day earlier. Apparently he was supposed to come with us but the plan had changed a few hundred times that he decided to make tracks on his own. Anyways we met him at the temple and went out to put some lunch. The walk from the temple to the car was about 800 m. The heat was killing. The boys wanted to take an Auto while i ran across street trying to reach the car using the shade. That dint work. My feet were burning. I have ben taught to shut up and put up hence dint complain. It was about 1 in the afternoon and we decided to go get some lunch. After lunch Noel wanted to buy a lungi so that he could wear it on the walk. Went around the market area till he found a nice looking one. The young man learnt to wear the lungi like really quickly. He could be a tamilian now. He’s now qualified for it. By the time we finished all of that it was about 4 and we went to pick up Pratul who was chilling at his hotel room. Reaching the hotel as usual the plan changed. All of us chilled for a while. The AC thank God for it made it nice to stay indoors.
Just before we embark on anything all of us in India drink a cup of Tea. India runs on Chai. Its the God honest truth. So as per tradition even though we were running late and me going home at 8 pm wasn’t even possible, we stopped and put one really nice chai and then made tracks to the main temple. At the large temple we discovered that there is a process to start.. Everything is available right next to the fire. No need to go looking for anything. There are a bunch of people who are lighting up dia’s while some throw camphor in the fire to signify the start of their journey around the hill. The hill is famous because of the temples around it, it also contains some rare herbs that have medicinal properties. What is interesting is that the hill is pristine and nobody has destroyed anything around it at-least for now. We started with visiting the first 2 linga’s before took a break for chai. As usual there was lots of talking and very little walking that was happening. Queue’s caused us to spend about 30 mins at each temple. So we would walk, go to the temple and wait till we could go in and then continue to the next temple.
The first three was alright. i mean walking barefoot comes naturally till you cut your foot somewhere. That started to happen to Anand. We had to take some pit stops on the way to smoke. Since its Tamilnadu and we are at a place where huge number of people gathered, its not nice to smoke out in the open. We spent plenty time trying to hide and smoke. On the way we saw the parrot lady who i wrote about in the past and that was an interesting experience. Kept walking for a while after a few cups of tea in between each temple stop. Pratul decided to put his head down and kill it. He took off. The 4 of us were peacefully walking through the forest and Pratul had almost finished. Anand in the meantime had to stop a few times as his leg was hurt and he couldn’t walk barefoot anymore. Asked an auto guy to take him to town but that turned out to be frightfully expensive. As we walked to the 5th temple while stoping by outside 29 temples, Pratul called. He had left his wallet and keys in the car and I had the car keys. Turns out he was atleast couple hours ahead. With nothing to do, he went back to the hotel only to discover that they dint have a spare key and he would have to wait outside for us. As we slowly made tracks to the 6th temple, we found a pair of slippers for Anand. He was ready after wearing them. Back to walking quickly and asking us about why are we so slow. Good times.
Saw a bunch of people and kids sleeping at the temples on the concrete floor and even stranger a sadhu with ash on him, passed out near the entrance of one of the temples. As Pratul waited for us we finally got to the last temple. Murugan wanted an auto immediately. He couldn’t walk anymore. He was done. Spoke to the first Auto guy we met and he was expensive, every other auto guy was expensive. i think this is the only time they can actually make some serious money. Its a supply and demand thing. Finally made tracks to the car and went to get Pratul. As he got dressed a couple of us caught a nap to prepare for the drive back. Today i understand how hard its to be a driver. One minute i was asleep and the next minute I’m back on my feet starting to drive. I drove a little bit of the way and then Pratul took over. He managed to catch a nap in the afternoon and was willing to drive back. The drive back was uneventful with all of us fast asleep, thankfully Pratul was awake. Murugan kept troubling me to get out of the car when we stopped since Anand wouldn’t let him get out the other side. Anand stayed put and wasn’t willing to even get down to pee. He held it the whole time i guess.
Finally got to town and stopped at Hatti for coffee. Dropped Noel home before i headed home. I had promised the wife i would see her before she left for work but that dint happen. Quickly got dressed and went to work. Overall the experience was brilliant. We had a ton of fun, managed to see something unique and learnt that Murugan will pay for our coffee for life. I mean he was willing to give the parrot lady money so why not put money to good use and buy us coffee. The wife was alright, she asked about the mangos i promised to bring for her. Since we drove at night we dint find any. The only regret is i dint buy the full jackfruit that was sold in the bazaar in on of the smaller villages we passed by in the morning.
Its about time to get on the bicycle to do a nice long ride. Lets see what the wife says.