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It was a long,  hot, sweaty night for me, with weird feverish dreams and frustrating restless leg pangs; but thankfully I woke up without the expected sore throat, though I am coughing, run down and have mild diarrhea. Yay India! Despite my bouts of sickness the only day of travel we’ve missed was that one in Hyderabad, and Carol had to work that day anyway. But dammit, I’d still love to feel better and not so weak.

After a 9.30am breakfast we checked out and got the hotel to organise a car to take us to Mahabalipuram’s 8th century Shore Temple, the monoliths called the Pancha Rathas, and thence to our hotel in Puducherry. The Shore Temple was very atmospheric, sitting alone in a fenced promontory by the sea. The sea breeze from the Bay of Bengal was very refreshing, though the beach on one side was ruined by the stink of human faeces near the fence. That beach was covered in tents and stalls and the spot near the fence seemed to be everyone’s toilet. I wouldn’t be keen to swim there.

The temple was very worn by wind and sand and in that respect reminded me a bit of Whitby Abbey in England, with the stone looking melted away by the elements.

Next, the Pancha Rathahs sat in a small sandy compound, which made them look like elaborate giant sandcastles – even more so because they are unfinished, and offer an insight into the process of how they were carved out of granite boulders. A highlight was a life-size free-standing stone elephant.

Our driver then took us to Puducherry, a drive of a couple of hours. When you’re not feeling well, being chauffeured in an air-conditioned car is the only way to travel, that’s for sure. We’re staying at the Villa Shanti, a lovely restored century-old building , and the first two nights are in a huge suite on the top floor. There’s a good restaurant in the interior courtyard, and it’s all beautifully cool and comfortable. This is an opportunity to splurge a bit and rest, take a break, and try and get healthy again.

After getting organised, we went for a short stroll down to the waterfront. We’re staying in the so-called ‘French Quarter’ (disturbingly also known as White Town), and it’s the water is only a few streets from the hotel. Traffic isn’t allowed along Beach Road in the evening, so people were out promenading along the road, though the adjoining shore is just a rocky strip with a bit of dirty sand. Even so I made sure I dipped my feet in the Bay of Bengal. Near a memorial statue of Mahatma Ghandi, I was suddenly accosted by a grandmother selling beaded bracelets who had a very well-worn schtick that involved first greeting the mark (in this case, me) as an old friend, quickly followed by the ‘I’m a poor old grandmother’ routine. She wanted to sell me one bracelet for 150 R but I offered her 100 R for two bracelets, which she agreed to; but after the money and bracelets changed hands she tried to shame another 50 R out of me. I thought we were about to get the whole drama scene, but she gave up when I made it obvious I was happy to cancel the whole deal.

We made our way back to Villa Shanti, and had a drink at a table in the courtyard, though unfortunately service was slow and the drinks were sitting on the bar for a while before we finally got up and got them ourselves. Then we had dinner at 7.30pm. I was somewhat disappointed by the food – I was expecting better from a place that supposedly had a reputation with ‘foodies’; I had chicken risotto and it just had pieces of chicken sausage in it. Still, it was nice to have non-Indian food, and the setting was very pleasant. After some extremely lacklustre service Carol turned on her charm and the waiter became more attentive.

An early night, as always!

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