It has been a day today when I pushed myself not to my limits but very nearly. It all started of rather innocently. Thought I’d go across river and check out the other village. Now I don’t know what is wrong with young people today. But there is a river, it’s not the Thames it’s not the Danube, is called the Thungabadra River and there is a ferry from the Ghats here to the village over there. I mean you could swim it in about a minute or maybe two. Ok so you might not want to get soaked, but I figured that with all the rocks around there must be a crossing you could hop skip and jump or at least a shallow ford. I’d seen a few people looking for the same thing as me on my first night as the last ferry across was at 6pm.
But I ventured a little further down stream past the banana plantation to where the women were washing their clothes. On the way I noticed some guys coming over the top of the rock from the river carrying bags of cement on their heads. So I figured if you wet cement its goes rock hard right and the guys who were carrying it and a few women I may add were maybe a good 6 or 7 inches shorted than me and the cement was dry. I also clocked where the tide line was on their shirts, hm. I stored it away.
So there is a whole jetty, well it was just a bigger rock than all the others, but we’ll call it a jetty and it was full of folk waiting to go across and the other side too by the straw hut about 15 fair skinned folk all gathered around waiting. I couldn’t understand why nobody had figured it out everyone was in sandals and cheese cloth of shorts.
So I wandered off down to the rubbish dump near Vickys guest house which I had very nearly booked into. Mind you, you are never to far from a rubbish dump here, that is not a snide comment. It is simply a truth.
I Said hello to Mr cow and Mrs cow on the way, Billy and his skinny family of bucked teeth goats and the cockrel scratching around in all that plastic. Also to Cynthia my muse, as there were dragon flies darting and hovering I think of her when I see them, it’s another story and I haven’t got time right now, it’s the wings you see. Anyway I nipped down the squelchy river bank, got my boots a little muddy but only because I was speeding and fueled on coffee, I just wanted to be in the river. As I got to where I’d seen the guys the other evening a guy fishing with a net asked
“Where you going?”
I said “This is the crossing right, the ford”
“Yes” he said “but be careful you have camera”
So I looked at him and asked how far the water comes up on him he indicated to just over his hips. So I looked at mine and indicated then it would only come to just under mine. He nodded
“But what about trousers”
I said “it’s a hot day the sun will dry them”
“You’re right” he said with a genuine nod
So off with the boots, tied them slung them over my shoulder and hoisted the camera above my head. Then stepped in with a splash, I was on the middle island in three paces. Then the other side I lowered myself in carefully as the rive had force there. I was in such a rush to get in the water I took the down stream route around a rock and was plunged into the water up to my chest. Oh oh. I kept my balance and slowly walked back around the rock till the water was just below my tackle level in the water, and walked slowly across.
Oh I was pleased with myself but I told myself I’m a northern English man I make my own way and most of the time when I do it’s a laugh. So boots back on and walked into the village dripping wet. A sign said on the outside of the village to dress appropriately. No girls in shorts or bikinis etc fair enough. There is one road through there one side was huts hostels bikes and bicycle hire the other side was rice paddy fringed with palm trees, beautiful. It was a little too laid back for me, lovely and all that, but I had my boots and my wranglers on and I was heading somewhere.
I did stand for a while mesmerized by the villages planting the rice in the paddies after a tractor had churned it all up into a thick muddy soup. A guy called me in laughingly to help and honestly I was so torn, I very very nearly did. Sat here now I wish I had it would have been a laugh, but I trekked on. I don’t know why I keep throwing myself on these rocks and giant boulders, I think I must have years of frustration built up that just needs using up. I think I am really just enjoying being fit and strong, just enjoying my body. I met a sweet German woman who I’d said hi too around the village. We chatted a while I think she wanted to come along for the walk but when I showed her what I intended to do she laughed and said
“ok you must go your own way”
You see I’d seen this hill in the very first minute I got here and thought I’m gonna climb that one.
Do you remember yesterday I told you about rocks and boulders looking quite straight forward till you get up close up, well it’s still the same today but I’d forgotten till I got in there, also around the whole base of it was thick with remarkable snarling and clinging bush , it really was amazing the way it snared you from all angles so if you pulled one thorn out the another would be driven in deeper, By the end of the day my precious wranglers were frayed and I am still pulling thorns out of my legs as I write this.
I just went straight up and at it coming up against wall after wall after dead end of giant rocks but I began to make progress and slowly got up into them. At one point the German lady was calling from down below that it was easier round other side. She couldn’t see what I could see nor how painful those thorns were. The rocks were a sort of sand stone so with rubber soled Doc Martins I could push myself up through narrow vertical crevices.
I think I did it just for the sheer hell of it and the sheer exhilaration. Though the last reach and pull onto the top of the place was, erm nuts. By the time I pulled myself on my belly onto a flat surface I was thankful and shaking with adrenaline and sheer exertion. My hands were raw and I was soaked with sweat.
“You are off your fricking head Mick” I said as I lay there.
I found a shaded place and was going to meditate looking out over the remarkable landscape, but as the energy moved in I just lay back and was lost to it. I don’t think I laid there very long, maybe I did. But when I came round I was recharged. I was surprised at how refreshed I was but I’ve got a good team out with me.
Now in a place like this that has been walked on for hundreds or thousands of years I knew there was a way down, a trail up here and back down, I just had to find it. I looked around and found a few little cairns, piles of stones placed on top of each other marking the way. I tidied them up as I passed but then lost sight of them and went to the left, it was a steep drop which ever way I looked, but after a moments contemplation and chin rubbing I decided that I’d jump into some bushes across a ravine and work my way down them maybe a two or three hundred feet to a place that looked like a path out. But it was a precarious leap as the rock I was going to jump to was conical shaped with a drop the other side. But jump I did and grabbed hold of the branches and hauled myself to the rock top.
Then horror, shit! I hadn’t seen it, I’d thrown myself right into a red ants nest and man they were angry. They literally swarmed over me as I’d sat right in it. I had to stand and honestly my bottle went for a few seconds. I was desperately trying to knock them of but once they’d sunk there little sharp jaws in they couldn’t let go so I had to fight each one off and the thing was I couldn’t go further down the way I had planned because the vines as far as I could see had nests of the little red anrgy things all over them. I was frozen, it was either millions of ants all the way down, fall over the ravine or climb back out. That was the wobble moment and the whole ant town was now coming out to reap vengeance upon me, one for being a dumb ass and landing on them and second for squashing probably a good many of their noble soldiers. Climb back it was. That was a tough thing right then, I inched to the lip then lent across the ravine, at which point there was no going back. Got a hold and pulled and pulled strong, don’t look down and keep moving on what your eye is focused upon. Will yourself up it.
It was pretty quick but when I got over the lip I was shaking with another wave of adrenaline but It was almost too much, though it is interesting when you need it you find the reserve strength to do what you need to do. From then on I took my time and let the wind dry me off again, there had to be a pathway down I just knew it.
Now, as I’ve wandered along, many many times I have thought of my Dad in fact we talk regularly, I’ll be thinking about him now and again and a white feather will drift out of the sky and I always say “Hey Dad” and It happened right there.
I’d been getting a little exasperated as I’d been a little shook up. Then a white feather drifted down to the right of me and then floated away from me and out of sight. I stopped and said
I looked over the edge it where it had blown and there were the cairns. Also hovering just above was a dragon fly and to top it all one of those beautiful little green birds with the golden heads flew across me a few times, so all my attention was brought to the other side of the place. Honestly, you’ll just have to believe me.
So I was over there and though it wasn’t a worn path I knew it was the right way to get off there. I was so exhilarated again that I nearly climbed across to another place to walk towards the river across the top but I came up against a wall of thorns.
“Not done yet eh?”
“Nope not yet” I said
I’d seen a couple of Americans away off they saw me we waved.
Are you going up I asked
“We’re not quite sure” said one, which meant no.
“Well if you need a way up its just round there” I waved and dropped out of sight though I could clearly hear them from all the way across from where I was. I’d read that these rocks had musical qualities to them. In the temples there were rocks that when struck had been tuned to certain notes. It sounded amazing but as I’d climbed up them these last few days now and again I’d struck one accidentally and they had vibrated with sound.
“Bong ,boing, boom, boom, boom”
It was very cool. Obviously the people who had first discovered this quality in them had been out here climbing.
Once down I stepped onto the rice paddy path and turned towards the river, the path disappeared into the undergrowth so I ducked in and just followed it till I came out on the wide pebbly banks. I was going to swim across get a bottle of water from a temple across there but the rocks drew me again. I remembered looking across at an inaccessible temple from the other side and thought lets climb to it. And that’s what I did, though the rocks there were smoothed by the waters that tear along here in the rainy season, so up and along I went. Leaping across the tops of them waving down to the coracle boats floating by down below. It was wonderful, I felt like a cat. It didn’t take long to get to the shrine, though some places once I’d jumped down into there was no way back. But I though well if need be I’ll swim across take the camera first and come back for my boots. No problem, in fact completely exhilarating, full of life.
I stood a moment and had fun with the oarsmen in the coracles below.
“What you doing?” They called up
“What’s it look like” I laughed back “Looking around”
“Oh ok, have fun mr”
“Hey” I shouted sarcastically “Can I take your photograph you look beautiful down there”
They were all laughing and messing about
“Hey stay still geezer” I called “I need to get your good side” more laughter
Then it dawned on me, why not call in a coracle cab to take me across when I’d made it to the temple. So later when one came by I called down
“How much to take me over the other side”
50r they said. No way said I.
“50r, no motor, just me my arms”
30r I said. 50 they said. I’ll swim I said. You swim then they said. I will said I, oh and by the way you look beautiful down there. Laugher as they floated away.
A few more drifted by some with a couple of tourists in and the same sort of thing. They were all sticking to 50r. I was sticking to 30r. I would have swam, but then one came by with no passengers.
“30r to take me across brother” I called
“Deal” he said. I climbed down and we pushed off and floated to the banks of the temple on the other side. I thanked him. Then went to get a cold bottle of water then came back to sit there in the peace of the late afternoon sun. Some guys came past as I sat there
“What is your country of origin” they asked cheekily
“England” I said
They were wise cracking each one of them introduced themselves and there must have been about 9 of them. I shook hands with each of them one was introduced as “Mental”
So I said “Hello Mental”
“Hey we watched you climbing across the river, are you from the discovery channel?” everybody fell about laughing.
Later back to the village up on the roof top Shanti restaurant which over looks the central Virupaksha temple and has become my base as they serve coffee and do great Indian style potatoes and eggs, I’d eaten and it was getting dark, cows stood around the street corners with glazed eyes, the guy with the flutes riffed away creating spells in the early evening, dogs barked and the women swept their steps. Time to visit the temple, I wanted to do my meditation. So shoes off and I padded around to the entrance in the torch light. I came to a shrine out to the side. Which was lit insideby torches, women in their beautiful saris were all sat facing the alter, the bare chested priest in his white sarong Leant against a pillar facing them as they prayed, I sat and watched. A big frog jumped out of the shadows and hopped its way towards the light and the candles, a big white cow stood at the doorway, hoofs planted right at the threshold, another one was rubbing itself against a fallen pillar at the side. Swifts were roosting up in the stone beams above making their strange squeaking sound. The women in blues, reds, yellow and greens prayed and touched dots of red and white paint on the body and face of god of the shrine. It was obviously well practiced and done with nimble fingers and graceful movements. They handed offerings of cracked coconuts and bananas to the priest who placed them in front of the god. I watched him subtly break open the ends of all the bananas before he placed them. Then the cow at the door decided it wanted to be in there with the girls and pushed his way in, it wasn’t a big space and there were a few ‘Hey heys’ but the cow wasn’t for leaving and so they all made room for it. I was brilliant to see. The priest placed burning joss sticks and blessed everyone with a little ladle of water. Then outside out in the shadows an elephant came round a corner at the end of the corridor where I was sat. She walked really quickly with a swishing sound as she passed me. The cow that had been scratching and was half asleep had it’s back towards the direction the elephant came from. It realized something powerful had arrived in the near vicinity panicked and tried to get out of the way as the elephant swept by.
I decided to follow. Back in the temple the temple musicians, a clarinet player a trumpet player and a drummer broke into strange Indian jazz when ever the priest in the shrine started ringing a bell, a little girl danced jumping up and down and right above there were what seemed like hundreds of monkeys jumping and running around the tiers where the multitude of ancient Hindu deities sat and stood.
The Elephant had one last audience with a about 30 kids all offering him bananas, some she ate some but mostly it dropped them all, then the keeper took her up a ramp and out of view for the night. I could see she had a lot of space in there and I have to say this one seemed happier than others I had seen. I could hear the guy talking to her as she was bedded down for the night.
The meditation was good too.