Thursday, March 12, 2009
On the first look at the map, it looked like a dull day of riding with most of the distance to be covered on the highway. The first place of attraction was the busy fishing harbour outside the Kollam town limits. Though the smell of fishes deterred my stay for a long time, I was still fascinated by the sight of the busy harbour, boats moving around, the sunrise on the eastern side and the noises around.
The first diversion from the highway was few kilometeres away to visit an Ashram called ‘Panmana Ashram’. I looked at the Ashram from outside and could not make much out of it. I also could not find anyone around to explain me about the place. I did not want to waste much time here and hit the highway again. The next diversion was more meaningful.
I saw the board for Amritapuri and decided to pay a visit there. Beliefs apart, one has to be honest in confessing that religious/spiritual places serve the best food at no cost or reasonable cost! Hence, even if I do not get any spiritual benefit out of visiting the place, I was sure of getting a good breakfast and I was not disappointed about that. I reached the Ashram and chose to make some enquiries (not just about breakfast!!!) with two foreign tourists. They were very kind and suggested that I stay there and have ‘Amma’s Dharshan’ which was scheduled for the day. They even offered to arrange a Dhoti for me to attend the prayer session. I informed that I will decide about it over my breakfast. My cycling costume had plenty of people giving ‘strange’ looks and I did understand that it was inappropriate to wear them in such places. I was still confused whether I should stay or continue as a delay may affect my plan of hitting Kochi for the weekend. After a cheap and nutritious breakfast, I chose to move out of the Ashram quickly without causing further embarrassment to the authorities. The Ashram was located in a picturesque location on the banks of a backwater with the educational institutions on the other side. The chances of photography was limited because of the restrictions imposed there. I tried to enquire about a long-lost friend of mine who works in the educational institutions. I could figure out the existence of such a person but not meet him in person. I still left my contact number in his office to help him find out the mysterious person who made enquiries during the day! After riding for few kilometeres, I hit the highway again to have my lunch at Kayamkulam. The afternoon was spent at a browsing centre announcing to my friends about my progress in the tour on social networking sites. The next big town on the route was Haripad where I stopped to have a cup of coffee. The sky was getting overcast increasing the chances of a rain though it also meant that it was getting better for the purposes of cycling.
Procession towards Ambalapuzha
As I was approaching Ambalapuzha, the road was blocked by a festive procession, which I learnt later was towards the Amabalapuzha Sri Krishna Temple. The attraction of the procession was the effigy of Radha and Krishna following the Deity. At the first look, it looked straight out of a poster of a Malayalam movie! I was got a better picture of the effigy later at Ambalapuzha which is seen above. After crossing the procession, I noticed that there was more to the procession – kids dressed as gopikas, Panchavathyam, some foreign tourists, women carrying a lamp with them and much more. Sadly, the procession was interrupted by the rain. The rain was getting heavier and continuing the procession looked impossible. By now it was dismantled completely and those participating the procession have taken a bus towards Ambalapuzha.
Meanwhile, standing on the sidelines, I was entertained by few kids who helped me to kill the time. They were curious to know my name, about my trip and importantly, my helmet! They wanted to wear it and see how they look with it. I could get a sense of being treated like a film star.
After the rain stopped, I moved towards Ambalapuzha where I decided to stay for that night. I had originally planned to finish the day at Alapuzha. I got a hotel close to the Sri Krishna Temple. The hotel manager suggested that I visit the temple next morning and it is a very important temple in Kerala. It happened to be the first of the ‘three’ Sri Krishna temples that I visited during the trip.
Kollam – Karunagapalli – Amritapuri – Kayamkulam – Haripad – Ambalapuzha
More pictures in my photo album. Click here