Day 41 - Kumbakonam to Pommphur
I didn’t realise when I ventured off this morning that today would be the last day of my walk. It was only six weeks ago I was ankle deep in the Arabian Sea - tentatively, like a toddler, about to take my first steps on my journey.
I stroll through the village before sunrise and watch as the women clean and sweep the outside of their homes in preparation to draw a new Kolam - a drawing that is thought to bring them prosperity. I attempt to sneak past the resting dogs to no avail as they tenaciously guard their territory - this is certainly one part of the walk I will not miss. I am then waved to sit down at the chai stall - the light, as it so often does, beaming on the steam rising from the morning brew. It was a cheery invitation I couldn't refuse.
The sugary coffee gave me that temporary kick to fight off any fatigue as I pushed through the glaring morning sun. I knew I was getting closer as the palm trees began to line the roads - the crazy Indian drivers still haven’t changed as they honked and weaved past me. I would stop to greet and high five the motorcyclists who were right on cue with their questions.
"What is your good name?"
"Where are you going?
"What is your country?"
Today I relished each conversation.
It was midday and I had already arrived at my resting spot for the day - a sweet 34km from Kumbakonum. I contemplated my next movements, playing out in my mind an internal battle to play it safe or go for home - the Bay of Bengal an inviting 26km. There was something driving me. I want to walk 60km in a day. I have had that goal the entire trip and it was now dangling in front of me as a temptation. How many other times will I be able to accomplish this feat? It is a feat I know I can do - I’m walking fit if that means anything.
Tingles rush down my spine as all the challenges and nostalgic memories flash before my eyes. I have walked up to the source of their holy river, through the charismatic small villages and scenic landscapes from dense jungle, lush green coffee and rubber plantations to the dry and barren wheat fields. I think back to all the people I have met along the way - the kindness and generosity extended to me that will never be forgotten – it will always be the people of India that provides its magic.
This is it. I get changed into my Budgy Smugglers. I'm heading for a swim at Poomphur, my final destination. There is no need to leave anything in the tank. I am about to change my own perception on what I deemed possible in my life.
I’m back on the road full of adrenaline. The sun is relentless as I zigzag across the road to find shade underneath the palm trees, feeling dehydrated yet full of energy - the paradox of my emotions. I force myself to take it easy stopping at all the drink stands and chatting to the locals as I want to savour this feeling and enjoy every moment right to the end.
I look up and see the sign - two kilometres to Poomphur. There is only one option, to run it in and bring it home strong. Ahead of me is a 200 strong contingent of school children and when I get closer, pandemonium hits as I am mobbed by them and lifted emotionally by their sheer excitement. I imagine it is like a marathon runner entering the Stadium. They begin to run with me, my own support crew to carry me to the finish line. Gradually they drop off until it is just two boys following me on their pushbike.
They cheered with me as I run around the final bend to fist pump my way to Poomphur beach. There was no cellophane tape or fireworks - just a rubbish-filled beach and fittingly - a cow! It did not matter as I ‘baywatched’ into the Bay of Bengal. The dirty salty seawater never felt better. I gazed out to the sea - only to become overwhelmed with this sense of gratitude, love and compassion for all that made this possible. I have done it!
For the first time I have unquestionable faith in myself - this walk has reminded me to cherish the beauty and mysteries of life - we are all temporary beings on this planet forging out our own unique adventure. It reinforces my belief that adventure is just a state of mind and that we all have the means to go beyond our self-imposed limitations and learn about ourselves. Of course, it doesn’t mean walking across India - it can be found anywhere you want it to be.
As I exit the water, an obviously confused kid approaches me.
"Did you win the race?" he asks. I reply, "Yes mate, I certainly did."
The reset button on my life has been hit - I will not define myself by my past or worry about the future, but rather be excited by the person I am today – and that I couldn’t be any more happier than I am right now.