17.12.2008 - 20.12.2008 24 °C
The 120 km trip to Kodikkarai from Chidambaram took a good 5 hours, but this time we weren’t surprised… that’s just how long it takes to travel that far. The last few hours were through gorgeous paddy field landscape – a true feast for the eyes. This is also the area that was worst affected by the Tsunami 4 years ago – we saw a fair number of NGO signs…. but didn’t learn anything about them.
There is so much water! Someone told us that this is the most rain Tamil Nadu has seen for at least 13 years. It’s mainly good news, although there is also a fair amount of flood damage along the coast – apparently another cyclone occurred yesterday (Dec. 18th) with its centre a little south of here and, as I understood from the tv news (in Tamil – so don’t quote me) even Madurai was flooded. On the other hand, we have generally had blue skies and sunshine… though we did enjoy a couple of intense showers here. We held my cotton shawl over us and in less than 5 minutes, it was absolutely wring-it-out drenched. But… everything was dry again within an hour. So, like much else here, “No problem, no problem”.
After the long, rural road and the many palm thatched huts we passed, this place feels like the end of the earth… and yet there is more or less reliable electricity, a paved road and at least a few thousand people living here in the “village”. Many work as fishers, others are employed by the government or by the big sea salt factory. Others are in the navy – this is a high security area, being so close to Sri Lanka. It’s hard to tell, it feels pretty relaxed here but apparently a close watch is kept on the fishermen and there is a 10 pm curfew (we have yet to stay up that late!!) We didn’t see any military people – only the compound)
We’ve come here to visit the Point Callimere Wildlife Sanctuary and feel lucky to be staying at the government run Forest Rest House – the cheapest but cleanest dwelling we’ve had so far. And fun because everyone sits out in the front hall and talks (too bad we can’t understand much!) We feelvery fortunate that two young men, Senu and Gokul who are working on their MSc’s in wildlife biology, are also here. They are thrilled to have the chance to speak English and we are thrilled to have them as guides. Christian joined Senu doing his field work early our first morning, and we all joined Gokul for his field work the second morning. We’ve been for several other walks … and, as well as dozens of species of birds, we’ve seen Blackbucks (beautiful antelopes with spiraling horns), wild boar, spotted deer, feral ponies, mongoose (mongeese??) and a single hare.
Unfortunately Emil came down with Delhi belly – seems so odd that only one of us is afflicted when we’re all eating almost exactly the same things. He had a rough night but after a huge long sleep the next day, he recovered fairly quickly.
It’s a real pleasure to be in a village, surrounded by the forest and ocean. The cities are interesting, but so very busy (and dirty).
This place also has its share of plastic littering the road and, unfortunately, the food stand has gone modern and lines its plates with thin sheets of plastic instead of the usual palm leaves. After eating, everyone goes outside to throw the plastic in a bin… and in the evening, the cows drop by to eat the food laden plastic!!! It’s awful to see. Gokul and Senu reassured us that there are many Indians who share our concerns and some programs for change have been initiated (not sure what they are).