|Mamallapuram (Mahaballapuram)(April 9 - April 13, 2002)|
We had a great train ride from Guntakal to Chennai. The kids played with
some kids from Mumbai on the train car - Mark lost three close games of chess to
a 16 year old boy, and really enjoyed sharing all the interesting snacks
that his family brought. The girls shared snacks with a different family
with younger kids,
and played cards.
We stayed one night in Chennai at the convenient but pricey and slightly run down Central Tower Hotel. We needed the time to organize our return train ticket to Pune. The train tickets to Pune that we bought a few days ago were still 'wait listed', and we hoped that we could get Tourist Quota tickets from the Tourist Reservation desk in Chennai in order to guarantee our spot. We also hoped to find an ATM. ATM's, our main source of cash, are proving to be difficult to find in India compared to other countries.
Traveling in India is hard work. Actually, it is not traveling that is difficult, it is the organizing. Aside from getting train tickets (which can take a good part of the day), we had difficulty yesterday getting a car from Hospet to Guntakal, and we had the same problem today trying to go to Mamallapuram from Chennai. For any car ride over one hour's duration, we prefer a larger than normal vehicle for the five of us and our tower of baggage. The extra room is appreciated by all. However, larger vehicles are hard to find because they are not plainly marked as taxis. A couple of times, we've had no choice but to ask someone for directions to one. The problem is that they don't tell you where to find one, they take you to their friend. If his friend doesn't have one, then they both take you to a third person, and so on. It felt more like a roving street party as we picked up one more person into our entourage. Of course, they all expect a cut whenever a miracle happens and we find an acceptable vehicle. We never do get to speak to the owner of the vehicle - the first person we met does the negotiating. The quoted price, of course, is outrageous with all the extras added, and we end up walking away. Then the party slowly breaks up. It really is annoying and we have not figured out a polite way of getting people to point the way rather than taking us. However, in both cases where we were successful, we walked far enough to leave the street party behind and then waited. Eventually, someone came up and said, "I heard you want to go to 'X' in a Sumo taxi. I have one". It is a strange country.