Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Do you know the way to Madurai?

I arrived very late in Madurai, bleary-eyed from a fitful doze on the bus (again installed in the luggage-space front seat, I again had the glare of oncoming headlights to contend with). I didn't even have the energy to bargain too hard on the price of a rickshaw (I did manage to knock it down from 150 to 120 - still maybe three times the real price, but we both knew it was a good five kilometres into town). I checked into New College House (with, as far as I can gather, no affiliation to any college anywhere), tipped the bellhop (when he got bored of hovering expectantly at the doorway and gently pointed out I should be tipping him), and fell into bed.

The alarm trilled at 7:30. So I told it to bugger off, and went back to sleep. I eventually roused myself and ventured out into the midday heat of 9:30a.m.

I was soon lost. This happens a lot, usually because I don't have a map - the Lonely Planet being far too bulky to carry around, I take mental note of the route and stride confidently out. This method of pathfinding almost invariably fails, as I either lose count of the streets (Indian cities being abundantly endowed with narrow lanes and sidestreets) or, more often, get waylaid as an interesting-looking lane catches my imagination and I plunge merrily into it. On this occasion, however, I did have a map, but was strolling down a broad avenue that the cartographer evidently felt was superfluous. Eventually I found my way to the vegetable market, and drifted through, surrounded by the smell of earth and coriander.


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