Monthly Archives: February 2012

Unveiling Hampi

The following are pictures you would not normally see when you google  Hampi. I have tried to capture how a local sees Hampi.

Laundry

Drying yard

Bicycle

Fancy a shave?

Curiosity killed the 'cow'

Traffic jam

Solitary reaper

Footwear and cat!

Discourse

Bananas

Categories: India | Tags: | 2 Comments

Hampi: A river runs through it

Hampi is a small temple town in the south of India,the size of a postage stamp.  It can be explored in a day or in six months depending on your pace and depth of interest.

A river runs through this temple town dividing the spiritual side of this World heritage site from the comparatively rather ‘less’ moral side, the ‘party’ side of the town.

We had experienced the ‘rather’less’ moral side with it’s green paddy fields and multitudes of guest houses with more foreigners than natives  and  also the spiritual side with an ancient  temple at every bend of the road. Did I mention we covered both in less than twenty four hours?

Tired, de-hydrated and sleepy we lay on the steps leading to the river, while the afternoon sun slowly grew weary. Beside us freshly laundered bright saris lay drying in the sun. A street dog lay comfortably on a white sari while  the temple cow walked by  stopping now and then to inspect bags of tourists for food.  From where we lay we could see the boat transporting people between the temple side to the party side. Women were washing clothes on either sides of the river.  Thud thud they kept rhythm as they beat the clothes against a rock.

Thud thud went the women of either side answering each other. Thud thud. A lullaby for heavy eyelids.

“Buy a Hampi guide book.” We look up at a boy about eight years old, wearing reddish brown shorts and a cream shirt with a faded insignia of his school.

” Why are you not in school?”, Preeti always direct. She doesn’t believe in beating around the bush.

“Today is Sunday. No school. You want postcards?” he retorts in perfect, accent free English.

I look at them. They are of a really bad quality but my heart goes out to this little guy.

I ask him , “What is your name?”

“Akilesh”

“Do you know the meaning of Akilesh”.

“Yes. It is the name of  god”.

“What is your name?”

“Lisa”

“Nice name.”

“And yours?”

“Preeti”.

“Nice name too”.

Preeti and I exchange impressed smiles.

“So you will buy the postcards? It is only twenty rupees.”

I have only a hundred. Akilesh spots its and says “I can get you change.”

I look around and see a coconut cart. “I ll get us coconut water”, I tell Preeti.

” I will help you carry it”, Akilesh offers.

The two us walk over to the cart. I hand over the hundred rupee note for two coconuts.The vendor hands me the change and from it I give Akilesh twent rupees.

I expected him to leave immediately but he surprised me by taking one of the coconuts from the vendor and running to Preeti.

He is a sweet kid. I smile. I think of buying him one but before I order for another one he is gone.

Sipping our coconuts Preeti and I  follow  him with our eyes as he  walks to the ferry point and boards the boat that will take him across to the party side of town.

” Did you notice he did not have an accent at all? And his English was very good.”

I smile and we both simultaneously say ” Nice name“, imitating him.

Now that is something he did not learn in school. He must have picked that up from the foreigners. Smart kid.

But we felt sorry for him. When we were his age we spent our free time playing and not selling postcards to tourists.

We watched him as he got off the boat at the other side of the river and started an engaging conversation with a young couple. Just then I realized that he had taken my money but had not given me my postcards! That is one smart kid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: India | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Birds of Kenya

When it comes to bird watching I still in the pre- natal stages. Here are few of the birds that I was able to identify( with a lot of help from my guide) at the Masai Mara.

#1.Orange breasted(?) Sun Bird 

The sun bird

#2: Lilac Breasted Roller:

Lilac Breasted Roller

#3. Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

#4. Helmeted Guinea fowl

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

#5. Superb Starling

Superb Starling

#6. Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane

Categories: Everything Else | Tags: | 8 Comments

The Rift Valley Railways

When it comes  to traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa one has options. There are comfortable luxury buses, expensive of course. There are less comfortable, less expensive buses which traverse the same distance as the luxury ones and the good news is that they take the same time.

You could fly of course. Saves time. Let’s not discuss the economics of that.  Then there is the Rift Valley Railways. It takes twice as much time as the buses,twice as expensive and twice as fun!

I had barely been in the African continent for a day when I boarded the train at Nairobi. I was so excited that it drove me to the point of confusion.  Now,  I have traveled extensively by train in India and so there was no rhyme or reason to my excitement.

I had booked into a second class compartment and was  fortunate to find that Roda from Mombasa would be the only other occupant of my 4 sleeper room.

It was dark when the train pulled out of the Nairobi station and it as it chugged its way through the country it got darker and darker. I looked out of the window into the night. The air smelled crisp. Thanks to my imagination ( being  the hyper one that it is), I could see the occasional acacia tree that is characteristic of African landscape. Through the darkness I could see the brown of the dry parched land. This is Africa I told myself and boy! was I glad to be here.

At a respectable hour most people had retired into their rooms and lights had been dimmed. I still stood by the window gazing in to Africa beyond the darkness. The only light I could see was the red of the American’s burning cigarette butt at a window in a compartment ahead of mine.

Falling  asleep was interesting. For starters the train was on vibration mode. You can’t wash your face without splashing water all over your self. (You would be lucky if a little water landed on your face). A close second was the thunderous lullaby of the train. At one point I fell asleep only to be awakened by the jerk of the train braking.

I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see if we had stopped for a passing  elephant or maybe even a lion. This is Africa , animals have the right of way, correct? I strained my neck out in to the darkness trying to will an elephant or a lion or at least a deer to pass by.

The patrolling security guard in my compartment rather amused at my antics demanded what I was up to. I did not appreciate his sardonic grin when he told me that we had stopped for passengers to de -train and there were no animals ‘railway crossing‘ at this time of the time. ‘Sleep time‘, he said.

With that I continued my sleep time. While I slept, I dreamed of the occasional acacia tree in the dry parched land; of elephants moving in herds and of lions lying in wait for deers. This is Africa and boy! was I glad to be here.

So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morning and looked out of the window to find trees with green leaves all around and around those trees with green leaves goats were grazing on the green grass that grew in abundance.

O Lord Almighty! While I was sleeping someone re painted the African landscape!

Categories: Africa | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Santiago de Compostela

11:22 PM Tarun: there?
 me: Helll
  Oo
11:23 PM  Tarun: :)you and your typos!
  I have a proposition for you
  for travel/writing
11:24 PM Tarun: there is a trip that we need to make…in the next 2-3 years
 me: Tell me
  Ok
11:25 PM 
Tarun: have you heard of the walk to Santiago de Compostela?
more commonly known as the Way of St. James
 its a 800 km journey in Northern Spain
  it takes about a month and about 120k people do it every year
  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_French_Way
11:26 PM me: When are we  leaving?
  I am ready:-)
 

And I was wide awake. I had never heard of the Santiago de Compostela  and so I started reading up on it.The more I read the more intrigued I became. People walk 800 kilometers on a quest. It is more than doing a pilgrimage to the Church where St. James’ remains are interred.  People do it to quit smoking, for a miracle or just for a long walk.

There is a beautiful movie on this pilgrimage called “The Way”. I found the movie delightfully touching. It brought out so many little simple things that we fail to see/ take for granted.

At the heart of the story is an opthamologist, Tom whose son Daniel  dies while on the way.  Tom arrives in France to pick up his son’s remains and  on the spur of the moment decides to take up the walk for Daniel. While on the way he meets Joost from Amsterdam who is walking to lose weight, Sarah from Canada on a quest to quit smoking  and Jack from Ireland suffering from a writer’s block. To each one the way is a very personal quest.

The movie though themed on the way, explores the journey of every individual and their connection to each other. The story is unique  in the way it portrays how four people, culturally different in every way unite while on a really long walk, how they fight,argue, disagree and yet in every way look out for the other; how across 800 km four strangers become invested in the another’s cause. It gives you a feeling of redemption. Its not a bad world out there after all!

If you are a traveller it is difficult not to relate to them.To me every dialogue had a meaning. But here are few that resonated with me. Read it, listen to it and then judge me.Tell me if I am wrong.

People don’t choose a life. They live one.

When was the last time you went abroad. I am not talking about business. Nepal , Morocco, India, .. I gotta to go to these places. gotta go.

Tom: I followed the same route… then I detoured and thats how I got here a couple of hours before you/
Tom: My guide didn’t say anything about a detour.
Joost: That’s because you don’t have  the dutch guide book
Tom: The Dutch guide book?
Joost: Because we Dutch are always trying to find the shortest route to the next party. You know what the say ‘If it ain;t Dutch it ain’t much.
 
Tom : Have you ever walked the Camino Senora?
Senora: No never. When I was young I was too busy and now that I am old I am too tired.
 
Tom: What did she ‘drugs’
Joost: Oh nothing. … Well nothing by Dutch standards anyway!
Joost : When we met in …. you didn’t say anything about going on pilgrimage.
Tom: I wasn’t going on pilgrimage
Joost:Yet we are. You said you were  on family business
Tom: I am
Joost: but you have all the equipment for the walk
Tom:Yeah
Joost:Tom that box with the ashes.
Tom:My son.
 
Priest : Miracles happen on the way.
Tom: You believe in miracles?
Priest: I am a priest. It’s kind of my job.
 
Sarah: How long have you been here, Jack from Ireland.
Jack: On the Camino or this spot.
Sarah: You pick.
Jack: On the Camino … hmmm thats hard to say.  On this spot….hmmm thats hard to say.
 
Jack: Then there was a dog fight near a cheese farm. Now what could that have meant?
Sarah: Jack , maybe a dog fight near a cheese farm is simply a dog fight near a cheese farm.
Jack: Ok! Thats good. That is very good. Maybe there is no such thing as a metaphor, maybe I should stop trying to make a metaphor of every bend of the road.
Christ I haven’t had an original thought in months. Writer’s block.
 
 Jack: So far 15 % percent say there are doing for health. Less than 5% say they are doing it for miracles.
Tom: Miracles are in short supply these days.
Joost: I am not doing it for health reasons or miracles. I am just a fat Dutchman trying to lose a few pounds.
 
 
Joost: Tom you think I will be thin like this guy by the time I get to Santiago
Tom: Sure Joost. Just keep eating the lamb. Nothing a few  pounds of lamb to shed the excess weight.
Joost: But it’s part of the Camino experience.You can’t come to Spain and not eat their roast lamb.
 
Jack( writing): A youth,not yet a man, no longer a child. could not have known that of all the bags at his disposal, the one he artfully made his own contained the most precious cargo of them all: The remains of Tom’s only son Daniel.
We all have a quest. Sarah’s clear, Tom’s becoming clear, but Joost for whom kindness is an instinct is further away than ever.
Armies march to war. Pilgrims march towards a new kind of peace.
 
Tom: Ishmael, I am not a very religious man.
Ishmael: Religion has nothing to do with this.
 
Tom: You have been be taking an awful lot of notes lately.
Jack: Yes I have.
Tom: End of writers block?
Jack: Thank You
Tom: Glad to be of service.Trust you will treat us all kindly when the book goes to sales.
 
Jack: A good writer is usually dire broke. So when I left college I wrote for travel mags. Thought I will put some money away then get to the novel.
Twenty years later here I am still doing the same. I am not feeling sorry for myself. This is the life I chose.
Tom: Jack you write whatever you want about all this, what you saw,what you felt. You write it like it happened. You write the truth.
Jack: I’ll do my best.
 

When I was young I was too busy and now that I am old I am too tired!

Write it like it happened. You write the truth!

Categories: Everything Else, Travel | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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