It was another early start for our trip to Auroville and Mahablipuram.
On Saturday morning we were picked up at 6.45 for the three hour trip south to Auroville – an alternative community built on self sufficiency principles. I was expecting a version of the Good Life on a village scale – but it wasn’t quite like that.
We arrived at around twelve after several delays and went for lunch straight away in a canteen a short distance from the place we were staying. After lunch, we visited a centre where residents carry out scientific research.
Because the village is supposed to be self sufficient, they need to make a living somehow. This centre allows villagers to innovate and manufacture products that reflect Auroville’s sustainability ideals. We were shown some toilets (Indian style of course!) that save water and allow human waste to be recycled.
Our guide also explained the building design in Auroville, which aims to use materials efficiently and keep the interior cool (having had to wear socks in bed that night for the first time in India, I can assure you it works!). We also saw how villagers make mud bricks using the earth dug up when making the foundations of buildings.
Next came the highlight of our weekend – a trip to the beach! We went to a private beach, reserved for Aurovillians and their guests, and swam in the Indian Ocean. It was great! Though after swallowing rather too much salt water, I decided to lie on the beach and read. Unfortunately, my reading was interrupted by a guy selling necklaces, who sat next to me with his wears despite my obvious lack of interest.
We then paid a brief visit to Pondy, though they dropped us at the wrong end of town for the bars. We did however, get to got to one of the cafes that I’d gone to during my visit there last week. We all enjoyed the rare opportunity for some European coffee. Kevin, the Canadians’ “Dad” was very impressed with the cafe latte.
On the way back to the bus, a couple others in our group bought these things that catapult neon missiles into the sky. They were great to watch. Cornish Sam, got a load of them, though one of the Canadians, Ali, got a much better deal.
We finished the day with a meal at the camp followed by a campfire. Unfortunately, I missed the singing, but while I’m in the bathrooms I heard our guide Vijay do wonderful renditions of Summer Holiday, a Bob Dylan song and Don’t Cry by Guns N’ Roses. Before going to bed we went to one of the snack bars in the village and drank tea and ate chips.
The next day was another early start for an nature walk in the forest. The forest was planted about thirty years ago by Aurovillians and is an example of a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest. Apparently every plant in the forest has a medicinal use and we got to chew some of the leaves, with particular medical properties.
After checking out of the youth camp we went to an organic farm where we helped out for about an hour. I helped with the composting and mulching, which basically involved spreading dead leaves around trees (custard apple trees). This adds nutrients to the ground and helps to keep the ground moist.
We then went back to the beach which was busier than the previous day. There was a big crowd gathered around a net, looking at the contents, which included a baby shark and lots of little fish (above). This time, I did not swim, but read my book and enjoyed the sun.
After waiting about an hour and a half for a rubbish pizza, we set off for Mahablipuram. When we got there, we only had a short time to see the temples with a not particularly good guide from the tourist office (Vijay seemed to know much more about the temples than he did).
Whilst at the Shore Temple, the guide spent more time telling us about the five different names that Mahablipuram has, rather than about the impressive structure next to us. Following a brief visit to some other temples carved out of stone, we headed back to Chennai.