Pushing my way through the hordes of brightly dressed locals, there is no room for even a single scooter to make its way down this one way street. Everyone is pushing me back, but I stand strong as have my sights clearly focused beyond them, on the rock that stands nearly 80 meters above me with what looks like a stone fort built upon it.
With my last shove, I enter through the large over size temple doors in to a darkened room. I remove my worn faded black ‘Vollies’ and place them into my backpack. Walking through I realised this is the first temple before I start the climb to the next one. I stop for a moment, take in a breath of cool air and stare up at the hundreds of steps in front of me. Tunnelled through the very stone that the fort sits upon is the same rock that these steps are carved from.
Despite my exhaustion as I climb, I am still shivering as the beads of sweat cool against my skin. Squinting as I the sun penetrates into the stone stair well, pulling my sunglasses down, I prepare myself for the blast of heat, which will come as I leave this cool darken sanctuary.
Joining everyone against the fence, I look down and over the city. I have to admit it isn’t a pretty view, it was an ugly mess of run down concrete buildings. To a photographer / artist it is an amazing backdrop to any photo, for me it just showed how little the people in this country cared about their surroundings.
I take a seat on the side of the second set of stairs that lead to the top temple. Children instantly surround me, I move my hands to my pockets to reassure myself these kids are not after my wallet. They hounded me with the same two questions, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘What is your name?’. I answered each child once, and as they started their second round each of the same question, I ended it, and stood up. Shaking each child’s hand I walked the remaining steps to the top temple. Where I was then asked ‘What is your country of origin? and ‘What is your good name?’ by a group of teenagers. They then asked if I could take their photo, so I oblige and walk back down the stairs.
Cramming myself back on the public bus, I am given the seat on the dash board with my back leaning against front the windscreen along side an old frail woman. The woman disembarks at the next stop along with a few other people. A seat become available and I grab it. Now at least I can see the dangerous traffic instead of wondering what is going to happen to me.
I jump off the bus when I see I am close to the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Walking through the seven gopram’s (entry gates), I pass hundreds of pilgrims making the tough journey from temple to temple. The men and woman always dress in orange and only carry one small bag. The woman balance the bag high on their heads and the men normally carry it over their shoulders. From time to time I see them walking in groups along the straight, boring but hot state highways.
Walking around the temple, amazed at its beauty, but disappointed to find that I am not allowed into the heart of the temple as it is only open to Hindu’s.
Jumping back onto the public bus, I head back to the hotel. Two young Indian girls sit down next to me. To start of with, they ask the same two questions, then they carry on, Do I have a brother?, How old is he?, Is he here with me now? I can see where this is going, so I sadly tell them, my brother is working in Australia and is not travelling with me. They find this amazing that a single female is travelling without the escort of the family. I then discover that I am surrounded by all the females in one family all on holiday together.
The girls point to my sunburnt elbow inners and ask me how did I get that. Their English isn’t good enough for me to explain that the sun can burn me through the type of motorcycle jacket I wear. I point to the sun, and they soon drop the enquiry. I say goodbye to the ten woman and get off the bus at the next stop back at my hotel. Inside my hotel, I am finally left on my own. No staring, no questions just me and myself. Its beginning to become my very own sanctuary. Completely away from the hordes of shoving, demanding people.