Kanyakumari is as far South as you can go in India. If you look at a map it is at the very Southern Tip. It is one of the few places on earth you can watch the sunset and moonrise at the same time and It is also where the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal converge into one. Basically if you jumped into a boat and sailed due South you would before long pass Sri Lanka on your left and then the Maldives on your right. A while later you would hit Antarctica – It is literally the end of the world as far as India is concerned.
To get to Kanyakumari we left Kovalam around 9am and took a rickshaw to the central bus station in Trivandrum. The cost was 200 rupees and he obviously tried to scam us. He tried to ditch us at East Fort which is on the fringes of Trivandrum and before all the heavy traffic. Thankfully I was onto him and told him I knew this was East Fort. It pissed me off really, he could see we had all our bags and I had two young kids in tow. Still, saving himself a few minutes and a bit of petrol was far more important than us, and the fact we had paid to Trivandrum Central. Sadly in India this is common and rickshaw drivers really are the scum of India.
Once at the station we had half an hour until the bus left, central station is opposite the train station and se we headed over to find out if there were any trains. Reservations was upstairs and yet again we found ourselves queuing at a counter to find out what counter we needed to be at. All reservations had to be done via paper which is written only in Telagu and so we were stumped. Eventually someone told us to go downstairs to platform 1 and board the train that would leave in twenty minutes. We did just that and the conductor came and told us we needed to get off and go to the ticket office for a ticket. We found it on platform one and queued. Once at the front the ticket seller told us the train wasn’t going and so couldn’t sell us a ticket. We went back to the conductor on the train and he said it was going, go get a ticket. So we go back to the ticket office and he refuses to sell us a ticket because the train isn’t going. I explained we had spoken to the conductor and he still refused.
By now I am completely used to this type of bull shit in India and have finally realised the reason behind it – It is just too easy. It’s that simple, if something is easy in India everyone gets confused, does the funky head shake and then throws a spanner into the works.
We went back over to the bus station and boarded the bus to Nagercoil(36 rupees x 3) where we would have to change. The bus was jammed full and so we had to sit on our bags until a seat became free. The journey took around two hours and I spent an hour of it sat next to the place in the bus where a window should have been. The funny thing was there was a space next to me and a woman boarded and asked me to stand up, I refused and so she stood up rather than sit next to me. I checked my arm pits and realised that she was just being stubborn – Which I knew anyway since I am wearing some antiperspirant that lasts for 72 hours – Apparently. I didn’t really care, she looked like she hadn’t bathed this year in any case.
Once in Nagercoil I knew we were twenty kilometres from Kanyakumari and so we took a rickshaw for 300 Rupees. We sped past some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen in India and though we were now in the state of Tamil Nadu it felt distinctly Keralan, but mountainous.
We quickly found a hotel and chilled out. We watched Hancock on Star Movies and I decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It was red hot outside and the 40+ degree temperatures were back with a vengeance. At the hotel my face felt a little tender and so looking in the mirror I realised what was wrong. Half my face was sun burned – gutted. (from the bus) So now I have to rub sun tan lotion on the half of my face that is burned and somehow try and even it out a little. The kids think it is hilarious that I look like Two/Face, I don’t share their humour.
Getting to the tip of India which for years was known as ‘Cape Comorin’ was special. In 1BC a Greek merchant wrote the first review of this place which was probably a little different back then “…there is another place called Comari, at which are the Cape of Comari and a harbour; Hither come those men who wish to consecrate themselves for the rest of their lives, and bathe and dwell in celibacy; and women also do the same; for it is told that a goddess once dwelt here and bathed” He probably had a good point but in any case he started a craze and now there are several temples and monuments. One is in memory of those who lost their lives here to the 2004 Tsunami, seeing such memorials thousands of miles away in Thailand and Indonesia shows just how far the destruction spread and is actually quite sobering and impossible to comprehend.
We decided to get some food and it became the usual bull shit Indian mission. Food in most restaurants is served until 12pm and then started again at 3 – 5pm and then starts again at 7pm. I have absolutely no idea why, again, perhaps it is just too straight forward to sell food all day.
You can only buy alcohol in Bars which are seedy, dark, smoky rooms beneath hotels. They look like some of the places I have been to in Soho, London and are certainly not where I would take my kids.
That said, we are able to get our usual Indian breakfast of Dhosi for Abi (like a large cheesy crepe) and Poovi for Charlie and I (like an inflated soft papadom with potato curry)
We seemed to be attracting more stares than usual, it was the 15th August and I thought I has sussed it out. India are crazy about cricket, everyone loves the sport and India have recently been completely embarrassed by England who annihilated not one, but three times in a row. A national state of mourning is ongoing at how poor the Indian Cricket team fared – And so as we walked down the street, Charlie wearing his England shirt I thought it was pretty obvious that the stares were sportsman’s resentment. Then I started to notice everyone wearing Indian flags and people boogying on down. I asked someone what was going and found out that it was Independence Day. In 1947 India gained Independence from the UK and so this day is a celebration of patriotism. No wonder we were drawing stares!
We visited everything worth seeing in the small town of Kanyakumari including queuing for two hours to take the boat out to a rock a guy meditated on a hundred years ago. The highlight for us wasn’t the temple on the rock, but the amazement of standing and facing the huge sub continent of India face on. Knowing the vastness that is India, all started by a small piece of sand 10 metres in length was something to behold.
Once back ashore I couldn’t help feeling a sense of achievement as we looked out across the ocean as it lapped up against the shore. We have now travelled the width and length of the entire sub continent. We entered in the far North from Nepal and have travelled all over the country. Lonely Planet and Rough Guide between them printed 25 ‘must see’ things in India and we have seen and done 24 of them, plus many more not on the list. There is nowhere else on the planet quite like India, it is probably the world’s most diverse country – Where else on earth can you be amongst some of the highest mountains in the world, sand dunes, cosmopolitan cities, visually stunning tropical beaches, huge arid plains all within a few weeks of each other – where one day you can be straddling an elephant through tropical greenery and the next a camel through a desert – Forts that ooze maharaja and history and one of the most diverse cuisines in the world. Though it is hard work, extremely hard work India remains one of those countries that is an enigma and a thousand years from now it will still not have been correctly and fairly documented. It is changing daily and though it may be the campest country on earth it is taking the global economy by storm. For years it has laid dormant on the international stage and only recently has grabbed the world by the balls and made us all wake up. Ten years from now India and China will be the biggest economies in the world and the rest should worry. For years an economic powerhouse of over a billion people has been building up steam and only recently has it started to release the pressure.
Standing at the tip of such a behemoth nation, knowing we walked into the country in the far North a few weeks earlier we felt an achievement. Not of how far we had travelled, but that we had done it. That we had taken all that India had thrown at us, that we had not only shared memories that would last a lifetime but that we had had an aim and had achieved it.
Looking out over the ocean knowing our backs were to the whole of India was special; Something special that all three of us shared until the silence of reflection was abruptly broken by Abi proclaiming at volume with her arms out wide as though she had just been robbed – “skank, there isn’t even a beach” Charlie added “you would have thought they could have put some effort in Dad and put a beach there or something” Both completely ignored the huge statue of Gandhi a hundred metres out to sea standing as proud as the Statue of Liberty off Manhattan and the significance the place held.