Southern India is a hot, sticky mess. Houses slant huddled together, hacked into sharp edges, snuggled by the encroaching jungle and its mess of fronds, tangles and branches. Sand seeps relentlessly through bare earth and discarded rubbish litters the landscape like moon rocks.
City streets are impossibly wide, cars and motorbikes and tuk tuks sluicing down them like monsoon rain. They march onwards, endlessly straight and remarkably well maintained asphalt lines pocked by salt flat and rice paddies, morphing into incredibly narrow roads through towns bursting with street stalls and men waving chai from cup to cup. The same traffic funnels in like a cone, lethargic and languid but always moving and always, always honking. Cars weave and cut in front of one another like a moving jigsaw of pieces, each knitting a new picture, a new reality.
The streets are crowded, the markets filled with throngs of vegetables, flowers and fruits – huge mounds of bananas and pineapples and coconuts and watermelons tower into the warm air. Brightly coloured powders for blessings blink provocatively in the hot sun and lukewarm displays of fish and squid with unseeing eyes upward attract flies and overeager cats. The shouts of sellers mix with the outside street noises in a delirious cacophony of the senses.
Spices burn the air – cardamom and turmeric, singeing together in a continuous dance of olfactory aromas. In the mountains, breath cools as the altitude climbs and tea plantations overtake every surface, stretching endlessly as workers throw kilo after kilo of precious leaves into laden sacks.
Southern India breathes its own beauty – one has to look beyond the piles of discarded waste, filthy waterways and malnourished animals to see that.
We just spent two and half weeks traversing hundreds of kilometres of southern India on a G Adventures tour and although it was a face-paced, hectic kind of holiday full of travelling, eating and walking, we loved every minute.
India is amazingly inspiring – the different sights, smells and sounds just explode out of the landscape and make it impossible not to wonder at your own lucky existence. And since I can’t possibly write about everything in one blog post, I’m going to split this holiday up – next week I’ll go into some more detail on our actual route we travelled.