At three o'clock I got up and finished packing. I caught an auto-rickshaw to the train station without any problem. The train was 25 minutes late, but my bunk was air-conditioned and very welcome after Madurai's heat. I slept until nearly nine then watched the scenery roll by until we arrived in Kanyakumari a little after ten.
Kanyakumari is a little town located at India's southern most tip. It prime fame is that it is possible to bathe in three seas simultaneously. Hindu's regard the confluence of water as sacred - so the spot where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Sea, and the Arabian Sea meet must be important. There is a red domed temple and columned mandapa built as a memorial to Vivekanada (A Bengali religious leader and philosopher - "... the Lord is one, but the sages describe him differently") on a large rock a few hundred meters out to sea. On a nearby rock is the nearly completed 130+ foot statue of Thiruvalluvar. Between the two of them and the ocean on three sides the city has a fantastical feel to it - I could almost imagine seeing a dragon taking flight from the memorial temple!
I was feeling a little self indulgent so I checked in to a nice hotel. It still only cost me $7, but I have a fantastic view from my own balcony and everything is very clean. Having learned my lesson in Madurai I immediately set out to explore before it got to hot. It was already hot, but the breeze off the ocean made things tolerable. I wandered along the shore to the little harbor. The small canoe like rafts built from shaped logs tied together were interesting, but the beach was littered with the carcasses of unwanted fish from the nets - hundreds of blowfish and eels - which I found depressing. There was also much evidence of it being used as a toilet which the tides flush twice a day.
The town has a distinct fishing-village cum holiday resort cum fishing-village feeling. It's a feeling that seems to transcend cultures - think the Algarve coast in Portugal, Cape Cod in the US, or any of the Greek islands in the off season.
Wandering around was nice. I didn't see any foreign tourist and it is a quaint town. I walked up to the lighthouse but was told it was closed to public access due to the Sri Lanakan LTD (Tamil Tigers) - not sure why that should matter, but it reminded me of how close to Sri Lanka I am right now. I stopped and had a light breakfast then continued walking. When it got to hot after a couple hours I found an internet cafe and then returned to my room to wait for things to cool off.
A couple hours later I ventured out again. It's still hot, but a strong wind has picked up. I'd set out to explore some more and then watch the sunset from the Ghandi Mandapam (at the confluence), but the rough wind surf called to me and I ended up walking north along the west coast (Arabian Sea). After walking a mile or two I stopped at some large rocks on the side of the road and sat down to watch the ocean, read, and wait for the sun to set. I was really enjoying the solitude but didn't mind it when a man on a bicycle stopped to sell me tea. As I sat there and drank my chai all was right. About twenty minutes later cars started pulling up. It turns out that unknowingly I'd stopped at "Sunset point" - where all the locals and Indian tourist come to watch the sunset - so much for solitude. The sunset was a little disappointing - no fire and too many people - but still nice. I walked back to and through town to my hotel. After a very nice diner at the hotel I stayed up late reading the Maldives guide book. I had decided not to go when I went to the Andamans, but now I'm feeling self-indulgent. The guide book inspired me - I want to go, but it sounds like it might be difficult (and expensive) to organize from here. I'll do some looking on the web tomorrow.