As I looked out of my hotel window in the morning I felt like walking down to the small church I could see from it and pray as a thanking gesture once I felt much better, despite still having a sore throat and bouts of coughing.
An elephant ride, which had been programmed for the previous day was carried out soon after breakfast and before we set off to Madurai. Although I had already been on an elephant ride during the Rajasthan circuit two years before I quite enjoyed this half an hour ride, namely because we (Christianne , Serge and myself) were sitting on the elephant's back and not on small side basket seats.
It was definitely more physically demanding as we had to open our legs widely and hold onto a tiny handle firmly. The elephant's walking pace was naturally slow, which allowed us to admire the surrounding scenery, with quite few men collecting elephants' poop to later dry and use as house construction material and domestic cooks' combustion (quite a sight I must confess as there seemed to be more kilos of poop than leaves on the trees of the forested area).
At the end of the ride the elephant's guide decided to treat us with an elephant trunk's "head massage" which was somehow similar to a vacuum-like ticking sort of sensation I had (obviously) never felt before. I couldn't help photographing Serge and Jackie's expressions as they had their own "massages".
The long 140 kilometre drive to Madurai forced us to stop several times on the way across both rural and non-rural areas, the first of which was close to a river bed surrounded by an incredible amount of filth, like I had only seen in the Northern part of India and where ironically people were washing their clothes and even their cars.
Green seemed to be the main colour that accompanied us as we drove along palm trees plantations and pasture and rice cultivated lands. From time to time a few white tombs and their crosses could be seen emerging from the grass along the road but green was still the imposing colour.
Somewhere prior to having a "technical stop" (as guides politely refer to those stops required for toilet use) we got off the bus and walked on a small bridge overlooking some small waterfalls where we could once more see people washing their clothes and (also) themselves. It is a sight I have been accustomed to in Africa but I still marvel at the way they beat the clothes onto the rocks.
As we stopped at a road café to have something to drink I opted to stay outside and look at the traffic, which was no longer a shock for me. An old man filled some plastic containers that he adapted to his bike and off he went riding along - what an easier way then the "on the head" system of water carrying so commonly used in Africa.
(To be continued)