Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wednesday 30th. Chennai - Tick on the list

D is in the doghouse this morning as he has passed on a minor cold which has given R a severe attack of the snotters. We are complemented on our Indian attire as we go to breakfast. The lady didn't realise that we were too idle to get dressed.

We have booked a car to allow us to visit a few of the Chennai hotspots before we take the Nilgiri Express tonight. Our first visit is to the Rail Museum, part of the Integrated Coach Factory on the west side of the city. Sadly this follows the pattern of the other Indian rail museums that we have seen, with some fascinating exhibits but poor signing and an almost criminal neglect of some of the outdoor exhibits. Hidden in a corner was Darjeeling B-class number 793 which, superficially at least, looked to be in far better condition than some of the locos that we saw running on the DHR.

There was also an exhibition hall which was in rather better shape as well as being air condtioned. One of the exhibits was a large 'scale' model railway which was distinctly unscale in the view of this observer. A young man in an ICF uniform appeared to be employed to operate this and looked thoroughly fed up about his good fortune. The rest of the indoor hall included some beautifully made large scale model coaches ,  storyboards about Gandhi and how railways influenced his political thinking, and various railway artifacts including a large brass bell that could be rung. D really enjoyed that.

 R decided to rest on a shady bench while D explored the bogie park. When he returned she was surrounded by school-children who demanded a photo with Auntie. They felt so sorry for her and her runny nose that they collected some leaves for her and presented them as we left.

Next in line was a visit to the Fort George Museum. The security to get into the complex was chaotic but inside it was relatively calm and there was a nice breeze blowing off the Bay of Bengal through the open windows. Much better organised, laid out and signed than the Rail Museum, there was enough to see to keep us interested for well over an hour. The collection of old Indian coins was fascinating. D is sure that he has had coins like that in his change over the last week. No photography permitted here so nothing to see. .

Chennai's heat and humidity was starting to take its toll so we repaired to the Raintree hotel for a beverage. There was a very nice breeze on the roof terrace and a great view across the city. One item of interest that we had spotted in the Lonely Planet Guide was the Theopsophical Society's Gardens, described as a "peaceful retreat from the city". We wanted to let some of the heat fade so we aimed to be there around 3 p.m. for a couple of hours stroll. Gopi, our driver, did not know the place and got lost. The map earned its keep and we got to the car park at 3.35 to discover that LP has it wrong - they close at 4 not 5. It is a weird sort of park with various temples and follies dotted about.We set off for a brisk trot and were glad that we had made the effort as the place was teeming with birds and other wildlife. We spied a pair of brightly coloured Woodpeckers which of course were moving too quickly for photos. There were also bright red creepy crawlies of various sizes.

All too soon it was time to head back to the car. As we hadn't had much of a walk we decided to head for Marina Beach,  Chennai's famous sea-front. There was something in yesterday's paper about a man petitioning the High Court to force the City authorities to evict the various food stalls and vendors huts that had been established on the beach. He claims that Chennai now has the dirtiest beach in the world. Now we have seen it we might not agree with that claim but we would have signed his petition. There are still a few traditional fishermen based on the beach but most of the rest is litter strewn and not very attractive. We took a turn up and down the esplanade before calling time on our Chennai sightseeing.

The traffic was starting to build up but we were soon esconced in the A/C Lounge at Chennai Central where the TV was showing Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times". We didn't see it all as our train was at the platform well ahead of time so we took the chance to board early. Nothing special to report about the Nilgiri Express except that the sheets and pillowcases were pink and mostly clean.  Oh! And we got a 2 berth Coupe again!

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