When Peter was researching his family tree, he discovered that he had a second cousin living in Kerala whom he had never met. The idea of visiting her, and of exploring South India by train, was then born. He pre-booked his accommodation online, and reserved his train seats through an agent in London. In advance of his talk, Peter provided us with a map of South India, pointing out the places he had visited.
After a short diversion by air to Aurangabad to see the caves at Ellora and Ajanta, Peter set out by train from Mumbai (Bombay) to Goa, and enjoyed the Portuguese architecture of old Goa as well as its palm-fringed beaches. Then on to see the Maharaja’s magnificent palace in Mysuru (Mysore), before taking a bus through the hills to Kannur (Cannanore) to meet his cousin, living in a flat beside the Arabian Sea.
His next port of call was Kochi (Cochin) with its famous backwaters. A photo of Chinese fishing nets was a reminder to us that Kochi had been on international trade routes for many centuries. After travelling round the southern tip of India, he spent Christmas with British friends near Dindigul, doing side trips to the mountain town of Kodaikanal and to Madurai with its famous temple and the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which tells the history of the East India Company and the British Raj from an Indian perspective.
He spent a short time on the south-east coast – Puducherry (Pondicherry), Mahabalipuram and Chennai (Madras) – and then went on one of the earliest tooth rack metre gauge railways up to Ooty (Ootacamund), situated among mountain peaks of over 8.000 feet, with tea plantations lower down. Ooty was developed in the 1800s so that Europeans and wealthy maharajahs could escape from the heat of the plains in summer.
After Ooty, Peter visited Bangalore and Hyderabad, the ruins of Hampi, and the temples at Puri and Konark, before ending his train odyssey in Kolkata (Calcutta).
Thanks to Peter for sharing his photos with us. A truly memorable trip.