Saturday, 15 November 2014

Somali girl trekking in Yelagiri hills. India

(Yelagiri hill, Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, India)
I am part of the health team in Thiruvalangadu Village and we are currently working with young people in Tamil Nadu on health issues such as nutrition, sanitation and recycling. Weekdays are all about planning events, teaching and campaigning with Restless Development. For all that, we do go away for the weekends searching for adventure. Near Thiruvalangadu village, there are many big and small towns which offer hiking, cycling, climbing, or little bit of everything for a weekend getaway.

I remember travelling to Mamallapuram (or Mahabalipuram as it is known locally) a few weeks ago, and talk about amusement. Mamallapuram was the major seaport of the ancient Pallava Kingdom based at Kanchipuram. In this town you can easily find pasta, pizza and pancakes. ‘Mahabs’, as some call it, is only two hours away from Chennai city. The town is small, laid-back, and its sights can be explored on foot or by bicycle. Without a doubt, the happiest cows on earth live in Mamallapuram, India. They live a charmed life, spending their days sunning themselves on some of the most beautiful beaches around and, as holy animals; they face little danger of becoming a steak or a burger. They gather in groups of five to ten and lie down on the warm sand while staring out over the Indian Ocean.  Besides, they spend the afternoon posing for photos with a steady stream of tourists; they barely move. Talk about freedom for the cows? In spite of seeing cows relaxing at the beach, for me nothing can beat my experience in Auroville town. 

(Mamallapuram,South India. 18.10.2014)
(Mamallapuram beach, South India. 18.10.2014)

Next to Pondicherry there is a nearby town known as Auroville (City of Dawn). This town is undeniably a hippie town. The concept of Auroville - an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity: an international community dedicated to peace, harmony, sustainable and 'devine consciouness,' where people from around the globe, ignore creed, colour and nationality, work together to build universal, cash free, non- religious township and realise good old human unity. Today some call it the giant golden golf ball, and this description of the Matrimandir literally “the temple of the Mother” is just right. The most captivating thing was seeing tourists, mainly Indians, who were being shown around by a middle-aged Frenchman. In all seriousness, a European was showing Indians round a town in their own country. Bizarre. Can we just talk about my train experience in India?
(The Matrimandir, Auroville. India) 
(The Matrimandir, Auroville. India)

(Imogen, Cara, Tash, Natalie. The Matrimandir, Auroville. India)

My train experience was pleasant, travelling by train in India is an amazing way to see and experience the country. Train travel in India is incredibly cheap and therefore no one is really excluded from travelling by train as they are in other countries, where the prices can be out of reach to most locals. London city (UK) thus would represent a prime example. I will just continue talking about India for now, information about London city train fares will just make me angry.
 The funniest moment for me was seeing monkeys, cows and goats on the train platforms. Only in India can you witness such events. The monkeys were beyond gangsters, taking people's breakfast and eating it in front of them. While my friends were getting hijacked by monkeys, I was enjoying watching the tea and coffee men; luckily the trains employ people to run back and forth along the corridors almost constantly selling drinks and snacks. The tea and coffee guys astounded me with their levels of energy. This reminded me of my Barista days in Marks and Spencer; I use to make coffee, hot chocolate, teas and serve my customers with a smile. It only took us two hours train journey to get to Yelagari hills, situated amidst four mountains well known for their salubrious climate which prevails throughout the year. Tribal people live in villages in these hills, but Yelagari is a popular destination for tourists too, especially trekking fans. Can someone please tell my new friends that trekking is just not a Somali thing to do? 

(Express Train to Yelagiri Hill. 08.11.2014. India)
(Yelagiri lake. Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, India)

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