Back to School

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Thandikudi Goodwill Childrens Home

Flag of India  , Tamil Nādu,
Thursday, November 25, 2010

A very funny little man with wonky eyes knocked on our door at 7:00am. If we were staying at The Crystal Inn for a relaxing break, it would have been a little annoying to be woken so early. As it was, we were staying there because we needed to sleep and then get up to cycle the last leg to Thandikudi. So when he offered us tea or coffee, and as we were up anyway packing panniers, we were rather pleased. We packed up the bikes and the coffees arrived, 3 of them. When he asked me "how many coffee?" I had obviously said 2, why would I order 3?! Off we went back through the mad little town of Battlagundi and found the right road out. It was a drizzly morning and the first 10 miles of flat were a much easier start to the day than we have become accustomed to. Kids on their way to school kept us busy with the usual “Hi! How are you?” The girls at this particular school all wore their hair in pig tails with a red flower to match their pristine uniforms. We knew that Goodwill Children's Home Thandikudi was at the top of yet another mountain, we had been told it was 20 miles up, so we took it easy in preparation for the ascent. The road started to turn the screw. Slowly it got steeper and more punishing. It snaked around the mountain allowing for very little respite. The rain got heavier the higher we got and for the first time in India we felt the cold. On the way up I spotted the most enormous spider I have ever seen. The yellow diamond on its black body suggested I should not mess. I got the all-important photo, standing at least 3 meters away in case it was a killer jumping spider! We passed the odd bus and a few houses/huts but otherwise we had the mountain to ourselves. The heavy rain had turned mountain streams into noisy violent rivers and after 4 hrs cycling we were frozen. After a couple of hours we were getting tired of going uphill. It never rains but it pours, puncture number 3 rubbed salt in the wound. This time it was Polly’s bike that needed a new inner tube. The last 5 miles were endless, but when we go to Manglacumbo Polly recognised it as the tiny village she and Bob would walk to to pick up biscuits, sweets and other essential supplies when they stayed at Goodwill for 2 weeks in 2001. Up we kept going until there it was, painted on a wall, ' Goodwill Children’s Home, Thandikudi. After the last few days which have been really testing, we arrived at the place Polly has already been to twice, and a place I have heard about through Birdham Church for over 20 years. Within seconds we were feeling the magic of this place. Boys rushed to help us push our bikes up the steep track. Perumal greeted us, instantly recognising Polly from 9 years ago. We were helped with all of our bags to a wonderful guest room and brought a much needed lunch. We wandered around the school village, the government had declared it a school holiday because of the rain so the children were back in their dorms sleeping for the afternoon instead of in lessons. We went into see the youngest group( 4-5 years , 22 of them sleeping in a small room. It was the sweetest thing I have ever seen. Some of them woke and forced open their eyes to check us out, others continued to snooze. We met the lovely house mistress who had remained with the school having been a student here. We were treated to a tour of the kitchen which turns over 200 meals at each sitting, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The shiny new rice steamers were very impressive, the school employs a man to solely cook rice. The dry store was a real education, strange vegetables and many spices. We were again offered coffee which we discovered is actually local Goodwill coffee. Perumal then introduced us to each class. The Turkish delight which we had saved from Istanbul was plentiful enough so that each child in the school could have a taste. They all gave it the thumbs up but it was clearly an unfamiliar sensation. The children were polite beyond belief, the behaviour and manners impeccable. Their smiles were magical and testament to the great work that goes on here. We ate dinner with Perumal and once again we were treated to the most amazing food. Tamil hospitality is incredible, chef even cooked up CHIPS for us. This is such a peaceful and happy place and well worth all the hills we had to climb to get here.
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