Ablutions …

Posted by on 4, Mar 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

Ablutions …

Toilet roll!

Much of the world doesn’t smudge and flush© like us westerners, but use soap and water in the loo with a jet powered hose strong enough to send your piles back to where they came from.

So, you often don’t get loo roll.  Which at first we couldn’t understand, but then when they do give you some, it’s a small roll and it has a dreadful smell!  No wonder they squirt and scrub©!

We’ve seen internet debates about this many times, but you have to think it’s us westerners who are doing it wrong here. As Coproal Jones might say about us westerners using the jet powered cold water hose, “They Don’t Like it Up em!”

Anyway, we’ve invested in a our own toilet roll supply and Linda has made it patently clear that this subject should not be mentioned in blogs ever again, but hey ho …

Early start

We were up well before dawn to move on from Chettinad and rolled out of our hotel yard as the first light started to creep through the trees.  The birds were going crazy and the town was already full of life.  It’s too hot here to miss the cool part of the day, so if you’re not an early bird you’ll really suffer.

It’s actually a joy to cycle then, it’s hot, but through humidity not heat and is usually about 19C.  The locals will be in beanies and parkers (seriously) and we’ll already be dripping,, but the villages are full of life with people in the tea stalls (obviously only men) and people in the fields (obviously only women).  All and sundry stop to wave, shout How are You and generally cheer us on / laugh at us. We love it.

The sun rises and the land is covered in a haze, it’s really beautiful.  Then the temperature rises, the humidty drops and it feels a similar temperature until about 9:30, by which time we usually hope to have done about 45km.  The temperature after this shoots up and by 11 is 33C. Though the air temperature stays around this the sun gets burningly hot and you dehydrate quickly.

There’s a temptation to cycle hard and fast (ok for our other fellow Tandemers, particularly you Nutty Tandemers fast for us is slow to them) and you think you’ve done well knocking 50km up before 10, but then you’ve not drunk enough or eaten and suddenly you hit your wall.

We’ve never had that before here and it’s sooo hard to keep going, you simply have no energy at all. Your body overheats, there’s very little respite from the heat unless you’re actually cycling and it’s all a bit of a melt down time.  Obviously we know this through being the idiots who did this!  Hopefully we’ve learnt our lesson.

We managed to crawl on to a village and they had a small stall where we got a bottle of ice cold water and a bite size kit kat each. They made fun size look like jumbo bars! We sat in the shade outside the shop and the owner came out and seeing us dripping with sweat and looking like we were about to die dragged us into their back courtyard garden where the whole family came to chat to us and made us sit under some overhead fans. Life savers!  We spent about 40 minutes with them recovering and drinking and cooling down before heading back out on to the road refreshed.

Our meal that night was another excellent curry – they just get better and better  – but we struggle with Indian for breakfast after having had it for dinner the night before, so we asked the waiter if we could have some cold milk as we had cereal in our room.  No sorry he said, we only have hot.  Errrrr…. We tried a couple of times to get it but even the manager came over and explained they only had hot milk.

We’ve found that India has many procedures that we would have seen in the UK 50 years ago.  There’s lots of forms to fill in at hotels, sometimes with carbon paper. People have set jobs and get annoyed if they don’t get to do them – like doormen, bellboys and it’s not usually to get a tip, it’s just their job.

There’s nothing wrong with this but it does take a bit of getting used to. Theres only one way to do things and you must do it that way. Unless you’re driving and then just do whatever the hell you want. And don’t forget to hoot whilst doing it.

But the reason for this we think is how cheap labour is.  We pay the equivalent of or more than a month’s salary for a room for a couple of nights in a decent hotel, so having loads of staff isn’t expensive.

Restaurants have multiple ladies (always women) walking around giving out water from jugs. They always look perplexed when we decline, but as you see patrons and staff drinking directly out of the jugs we’ve decided to stick to bottled drinks and water from our filter bottles.

When you order food they’ll be a manager who directs someone to come to your table to take your order, often with someone alongside, another person brings drinks if they’re not water and another the food, always men.

Women then clear the plates, because obviously that’s where the hard work starts.

Beginning of our road block

We decided to have a few days at a posh hotel in Madurai over my birthday but as our preferred hotel was full on the 14th broke our cycle to get there into 2 short ones. We had a very slow pleasant cycle being stopped numerous times for selfies and at one stage blocked a road with 2 cars and 4 motorbikes all stopping to wave and shake hands whilst one guy translated. They just don’t care they’ve blocked the road and the poor lorries had to inch past them all.  We thoroughly enjoyed it obviously!

Surprise birthday cake at breakfast from the hotel pastry chef

Madurai is famous for its main temple, which fobids cameras – at least from foreigners – and you have to hand them over before going through a metal detector to check you have. Given that the process for women takes ages more than for men as their X ray machine has curtains and a one at a time policy rather than the walk through you get for the men, you can possibly understand why they only do this for tourists. The thousands of people in the Hindu only queue would die of starvation before getting in if they had to have these checks.  That also explains why we saw Hindus happily snapping away!

Madurai Temple entrance

The temple was, as usual, extremely impressive as was the Palace we visited the next day, but for me the highlight of the 4 day off break was the shopping at the Saravana Department Store that we visited.  It had (and I’m not exaggerating) literally tens of thousands of sarees of all colours patterns and materials. It was amazing, but I couldn’t get Linda to buy one!

We did buy some groceries from the 7th floor and a top and this in itself was an experience.  There are hundreds of staff and to buy anything you pick it up and go to the billing area where someone takes your item and rings it up on the till, keeps the item and then hands the bill back to you.

Sari shop

You then move clockwise round the large rectangular checkout area staffed by at least a dozen people on to the next member of staff who stamps your bill and takes your money, whilst the next girl gives you your change.  Your goods meanwhile are passed in a basket along the staff to the next person.

She then stamps another receipt and ticks off the items then finally hands over the item you purchased and tells you off for bringing your own bag “No! No!, Forbidden!” Apparently India doesn’t have enough of a plastic problem yet so you then put the plastic bag into your bag.

Then we have to collect our groceries which we bought over the other side of the store but weren’t allowed to take with us until we got to the exit of this floor.  Again, your items are checked off against the receipt and ticked, initaled and stamped and then you can take them.  This creates jobs for approximately 12,000 people per item sold. 

It was great fun and on our way home our tuk tuk was stopped by the police and we thought we’d missed getting the full set of stamps for a moment but it was just a routine grumpy policeman checking our drivers licence whilst behind him vehicles rushed through the red lights.  As long as the paperwork is in order everyone’s happy.

Tuk tuk hall of mirrors !


  1. Another great blog!! But the Tilly’s tandem “hard and fast”??!! Is there video evidence?!!!

  2. We always were provided with buffet meals so very interesting to read the full ordering to eating procedure, we also only shopped at small stores so didn’t have all that tickets malarkey . Went through the no camera thing at Madurai Temple but it was absolutely ok to take a mobile phone inside 🤔

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.