In Tiruvannamalai the Lonely Planet focuses on the temple but we were lucky enough to know people who lived there who recommended us taking accommodation out near the Ramana Ashram. This area is at the bottom of Mount Arunachala and favoured by spiritualists from around the world. We had a very modern comfortable room at Mountain Breeze for Rs 450. From there you can walk through the gate at the back of the ashram and then either up the mountain (around 2 miles for fine views and to see Ramanas home) or by taking the left hand turn off you can go around it. The red markers show the way for the inner track but part way along you can detour to the yellow track which goes over a hill for a more interesting walk. Even at a gentle pace the circuit should take less than 5-hours. There are chances to spot wildlife, many impromptu shrines, a tank, a visitor centre and a temple with magnificent warrior statues. It is also good to take a rickshaw on the main round around the mountain to see the other temples and lingams. Leaving Tiruvannamalai for Mamallapuram you can take the Chennai A/C luxury bus (Rs 144) and asked to be dropped off at Chengapattu (3-hours). From the motorway off ramp a rickshaw will take you 2km to the bus station, Rs50. Finally a local bus does the last 23km to Mamallapuram Rs9 approx 1 hour. Alternatively return to Pondicherry and take the bus up from there.