A little quiz: What is the world's most visited site of pilgrimage? Rome? Jerusalem? Mecca? Nope, none of the above. The answer is the Hindu pilgrimage site of Tirumala, situated on a hill top near the city of Tirupati, which I went to after saying goodbye to Margrethe, Lisbeth and the rest of the group. You can take a bus to the top from Tirupati, but really dedicated pilgrims walk the entire way covering 13 kilometres and more than 3000 steps. I decided to follow in their footsteps and take the walk in the gruelling sun.
A view towards the top of the initial climb. At first I thought this was Tirumala, but I would get wiser. Reaching that white Gopuram means that you are still less than halfway.
The view from the White Gopuram you just saw above, down towards Tirupati. As you can see it is quite a distance, but nowhere near the finish line.
Fortunately most of the road is covered like this, giving good protection from the sun. It may not look too appealing, but anyone who has tried walking 13 km. uphill under a baking sun, knows that the shade provided by this is a God send.
But it simply never ends. This is a large gate apparently marking nothing but the beginning of another 1000 steps.
Fortunately there was plenty of interesting nature to look at. This amazing dear was as far as I could tell a wild animal, which had simply gotten so used to people that it would lie by the path simply waiting to be fed. I bought him some cucumber sticks that he seemed to enjoy thoroughly.
Another wild animal, a more elusive spotted dear, which had found a corn cob. I like the way it looks like he is smoking it as a cigar.
And the most fortunate animal spotting of all: A wild boar. He was not about to stand still to let me get a proper image, and even to get this I had to run back down the hill to follow him. From what I hear it is rare to spot one of these animals and considered very auspicious.
The landscape and vegetation varies a lot on the route which is also refreshing. Here on a dry part you see a cactus with flowers.
But later I got to colourful, lush plants such as this one...
..and this one.
Once you get over the first pass, you walk along a large forested, valley almost untouched by man.
Another interesting feature of the pilgrimage walk to Tirumala is that you keep seeing rocks placed on top of another. I'm sure it must have some religious significance, although it makes me think of Monty Python's sketch involving the Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things
A statue of Hanuman tells you that you are getting close. In my next pictures I will show pictures from Tirumala itself.