My trip to India

by Tetsuo Nakahara
Stripes Korea

Editor’s Note: New Korea Stripes writer Tetsuo Nakahara took a trip of a lifetime to India in 2009. We hope you enjoy his story. If you have a travel story of your own, we’d love to hear from you. To submit a story, go to korea.stripes.com. Namaste.

“Super! Super! Mr.!... Super!!!”

A crowd of smiling local children shouted with enthusiasm from the beach as I finished riding a glassy, head-high wave in the point break. 

The youngsters were excited and amazed to see something they had never witnessed in their lives: surfing. Yes, I was in southern India, the last resort. 

The smell of spices, coconut trees, Hindu temples and chai on the street corners; the sound of car horns and mooing cows; and the pure smiles of the local people created a unique ambience. It was neither a luxury beach resort nor a packed with the chaos of an overpopulated country. 

India was different from what I imagined.  I discovered southern India to be a land of myths, mysteries and mag¬nificent structures. From the beaches to the mountains, it’s picturesque and gives off a beach town vibe where people can kick back. I imagine it to be quite different from the northern part of India. 

I traveled to India for a month because I wanted to explore and experience new things. And I wanted to go at it alone. I didn’t buy a package deal that came with a plane ticket, hotel and dining. I wanted to immerse myself in the local culture. I also wanted to surf in an ocean blue where few others venture. 

My first stop was Mamallapuram, located 55 kilometers from Chen¬nai, the capital city of Tamilnadu province. This fishing town on the Bay of Bengal is one of the most frequented tourist destinations in Tamilnadu.

People come from afar to visit the Shore Temple. More than 1,400 years old, this temple sits on the edge of the sea and protected by a row of bulls carved out of rock. It is absolutely mesmerizing when lit by moonlight. 

I also had a chance to view Shore Temple from my surf board. The powerful breaks in front of the temple were awesome. But I will tell you that the water was polluted and quite murky. In fact, I had to go to the local doctor for antibiotics after scraping my leg and waking up ill the next morning. That’s a whole other story.

Also in this area is “Krishna’s Butterball,” a huge boulder resting precariously on a narrow rock base. Legend has it that several Pallava kings attempted to move the boulder. They didn’t budge it. Not even with the help of elephants. I spent part of a lazy afternoon kicked back under the shade of this huge rock.

During my stay in India, I also had an opportunity to stay in Sri Ramana Ashram, which was the home of philosopher Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950).  Located at the foot of the beautiful mountain Arunachala in Tamil Nadu, thousands flock here yearly to find peace within oneself. The ashram was a perfect place to practice meditation and feel the holiness of the Indian culture. 

One of my other unforgettable experiences in India was a 13-hour train ride from Chennai to Vishakapatnam (known as Vizag). With the train running through many small towns, I was able to get a glance of the country’s poverty. It also gave me a chance to talk with the locals, many of whom were fascinated with my surf board. Several of them felt the need to bang on my surf board over and over again while asking, “What is this?” After the long ride, I was physically exhausted.

Now back to surfing. My dream surf spot of this trip was near Vizag. I stopped the rickshaw driver at the point of a cliff. The waves below were lined up over the horizon. It was beautiful and there was no one in the water. I had the whole place to myself. I was stoked.

That night after hitting the waves, I ended up staying in the home of the village leader for a week. I had asked villagers where I could find a hotel or guest house. They said there weren’t any, but the village leader offered me to stay at his home. It was wonderful experience that will last a lifetime. But I had to note that most of local people do not have toilets in their homes, so they take care of their business on the beach. Yes, on the beach. So watch where you’re stepping when on the sandy shores in this area of India.

Traveling to the southern part of India was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was calm, chaotic and beautiful. But it also opened my eyes to how others around the world live.
 

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