Whoever said this climb was easy is crazier than the one who told me it was just a short walk to the Corfu bus stop. I really need to stop taking people's word on this.
I woke up at the crack of dawn (otherwise it gets too hot to climb) and met my friends Simon (German), Shanti (German and American), and James (from New Jersey, who I'm backpacking through India and Nepal with).
Our climbing posse We took a rickshaw from the ashram to the base point by the temple. From there it was straight up. For 2 and a half hours. I really thought I was going to die-- how was I the only one having trouble here? Am I really THAT out of shape? I know I haven't run since I left for my trip but come on Katy, get it together! I was seeing spots and I thought I would pass out any second. It was only 6 am but already brutally hot and hazy. Combine that with lovely asthma lungs and you will have a hilarious (or sad) picture, depending on how you see it.
We kept going though, and reached the summit at about 8:15 am. It was incredible; just the four of us standing there looking at the world beneath us, wind providing sweet relief from the exhaustion our bodies were feeling.
We did some yoga on the top of the mountain, and then I took a nap. After an hour and a half, we started our descent, which was slightly easier on the lungs but tougher on the legs. I heard somewhere that there's only two muscles in your entire body that will just give out when they've reached a certain point, and one of them is your quads. Mine got pretty close to that point, I'll tell you that much.
We were down in time to have lunch at Ramana Ashram in town, where you sit in these huge rows on the floor, and devotees come around and serve you unidentified dishes onto your banana leaf. You have to cover your plate with your hands if you don't want something, or say "kunjum" which means "little" in Tamil. But they work quickly, so you've gotta watch your leaf like a hawk, otherwise you'll end up with a giant ladle of spicy sambar and you have to eat it (it's considered the absolute worst disrespect to leave food on your plate at the ashram). Once I had my plain rice, curried veggies, and ghee (clarified butter), I tucked in. After I remembered custom there, I had to sit on my left hand so I wouldn't use it to eat--it's considered unclean there and people would be really sketched out if I did. I don't know if you've ever spontaneously tried to use your non-dominant hand to do something that is already difficult, but let me tell you, it ain't pretty. I definitely would not recommend the traditional Indian dining experience as a first date--it's pretty messy. Unless you like to test someone, in which case it'd be hilarious.
After lunch, my roommate Almut (German), James and I went into town to see the elephant. Turns out it has siesta time just like the rest of India. Their hours take some getting used to. Because of the heat, shops and such are open from 8 to 12; close from 12 to 4 for afternoon siesta, and then open again from 4 to 8.
After that, we headed to Birani's, a three story clothing shop. Shopping for clothes in India is a totally different experience. You have a section with fabric and tailors who will make custom garments that don't cost you an arm and a leg. You also have ready-made items, which they keep in boxes behind the counter. You tell them what you're looking for (fabric, cut, size etc.) and they somehow know exactly what boxes to pull out. Everyone is extremely friendly and wants you to walk away satisfied.
We hit a wall of exhaustion after that, so we headed home to shower and take a nap. Later, we went over to james' place and made mango,banana, and nutella pancakes. So good. I was also introduced to Bananagrams, a game similar to Scrabble but you make your own board. I have a feeling James and I will be playing it a lot on long train rides through the Indian countryside.
It's hard to believe my time here is almost up--it feels like I just arrived, but at the same time it feels like I've been here forever. Thursday night we (and for the next two weeks, we means James and I) head to Chennai to hop a flight to the Andaman Islands (seriously, google it. The pictures will make you so jealous). I'm working on a few posts before then, since I definitely won't have internet in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Catch y'all later.