Hospet to Badami 06.02.11
It doesn’t matter where you are if you have liked a place it is always a little but of a tear to move on. I suppose a little bit of my tear was the dread of a local bus journey with all that weight.
I walked through the busy Hampi main street for the last time with a great determination. A guy tried to sell me one last time a crystal that I’d felt pulse in my hand but I just didn’t want anymore weight not even a crystal. I saw my first Indian snake charmer and I strode past, sat there in the sun in wide street and I didn’t think I had time to stand and watch him, but it certainly slowed my pace. He had two small Cobras in on basket and a bigger one to the side the two smaller ones swayed hypnotically from side to side the bigger one he put a basket lid on just as I arrived it looked remarkable but I wasn’t going to miss that bus today.
On the way down the high street I passed a gauntlet of rickshaws who were offering minimum of 150r to Hospet bus station. I just kept it up
Iif somebody went for it I would too, or I’d simply get the bus for 10r. The draw back with that was it would be rammed packed and I dreaded the hassle getting on there with all the weight. I got to the bus stand and one gave in 100r and we had a head start on the bus. But it was a slow drive and the bus over took us. I really must learn to let go. This is India and the only thing that runs on time from what I’ve seen are the trains.
Hospet as I’ve said earlier is jaw dropping madness, I say that, but I’ve not seen an accident yet and in amongst all that apparent chaos are manners, there is no road rage, everyone knows how it is, nobody is leaning out of their cab screaming or sat fuming, cussing others. This is just how it is and that is that. So although London has traffic lights, well marked streets and a system in place that is where the madness and rage is. There is no rage here.
I arrived at Hospet at 12.25 which gave me plenty of time to be batted from pillar to post till I eventually arrived at the correct spot in the dust where apparently the bus to Badami would arrive. 1pm came and went various battered busses backed into the station and I asked one of the guys in brown if this was the bus to Badami. The answer was
There was supposed to be 2 buses one at 1pm and one at 1.30pm you see. 1.40pm passed and still no bus. A guy with a walkie talkie shrugged his shoulders when I asked if he knew what had happened to the buses.
“No show, late” he said “Don’t worry I will tell you when”
Again I have to say I am so grateful at times like this that the Indians speak a smattering of English. I’d watched the same guy dealing with a really aggressive French guy, who was a little over the top with the testosterone, but perhaps he had just become ground down with the classic wave of the arm and “Over there” type of direction, it was embarrassing though and in actual fact I’d started to en joy just sitting there watching the people and watching the beat up battered busses backing in and rolling out of the place. A group of Japanese had come to the same conclusion as me and just gave up worrying.
A long pink bus rolled in at 2.20 and the cry went up
“Badami badami badami…… badami badami badami”
We left 10 minutes later. Lurching through the streets of Hospet and out onto the main highway. It took about 6 hours to get there and though it was a little cramped leg space with me it was more comfortable than the trains and way more interesting. I have to say it was probably one of the most absorbing six hours I can recall. On the bus you were actually in India right down the main highways and right in the teeming energy filled main streets.
The driver was honestly genius. I though of Leon Kamin often, the brilliant and explosive demon driver on my London Lite days, Leon if you read this get Angie and the kids and get your ass over here, this is where you would be appreciated.
It seems that everybody out on the road know that the busses get right of way and there is honestly a continuous line of amazing looking dust coated trucks out there called “Goods Carriers” that seemed to stretch of into the horizon in both directions. The ancient caravans of the old silk road had nothing on them I bet. The road was only 2 lanes as almost the whole way the road was being dug up and another 2 lanes added, but the actual road Was pot holed like you wouldn’t believe, it seemed every few minutes everybody in the bus was airborne, but nobody batted an eye
So this is how it goes, when there is a gap in the traffic on the opposite side of the road the driver simply pulls into the oncoming lane and drives and accelerates right at any oncoming vehicle like a game of chicken then when they get within 10 feet of one another out driver starts banging on the horn and the truck we are level with simply slows down and we skim in between by at times millimeters back into lane . Or if there is no room for to long a time in the oncoming lane he would pull off and go along the dug up dirt on the inside and tear along blaring the horn. I was open mouthed, then I was laughing and then I got to understand how skilled this guy was. It really was amazing. I have grown to really like the bus drivers as the weeks have gone on.
And I loved the goods carriers. I’d begun to wonder about the guys here. I’ve seen old pictures of the Indian men and they seemed to be a flamboyant lot but these days they don’t seem to have the style or color the women have, just white of blue shirt, brown of black trousers and sandals, but I hadn’t seen the highways had I. The women have the saris the men have goods carriers. Basically they are great big square fronted trucks with a base coat of yellow red green or white but each and every one of them is painted Indian style. With colored stars (the Star of David again), wheels, gods and goddesses, multi colored dots, geometric lines and flowers or the name of the truck “Chennappa road king or BoBo or the drivers Karshasri, some of them had fringed fenders and grills others had chain skirts with bells and huge tassles hanging of the wing mirrors. It was fantastic.
We stopped at a road side café and I was off like a shot photographing them. Chatting to a few people out there one was a school teacher, though I have no idea what he was doing on the side of the highway at mid day in the baking sun. At one point I crouched down to take a photo and this kid ran across the road in front of a truck perhaps he was showing them road safety, I got a great shot. He walked towards me and I got another. He figured out what I was doing and stood there for the next truck to come by. Click. Great. Then another kid saw him and there were two, then there were three and four of them and then the school teacher went and stood with then and he was actually in the road grinning head wobbling looking really happy, the trucks were all sounding their horns and I was shouting at him to get out of the road as the first kid was too close to start with and now there was a crowd gathering, I if I hadn’t stopped somebody would have been killed. It was nuts.
The coach lumbered and lurched and screeched through towns and scenes that I have no idea how to begin to describe and it just wouldn’t touch the reality of it. But as the day rolled on I began to wonder who the hell I was to sit there judging it all on its dust and its sand. I wouldn’t want to live like that, it wasn’t for me, but I thought there has to be a reason for all the suffering you see here. It is in your face and if it is true that you choose your path before you get here then there are lessons being learned here.
I love that there were animals that we consider farm animals co existing here with the people in the towns and villages. Some towns would seem to be over run with black hairy pigs, little families of them all running and rummaging about, in another it was goats, there were always cows and oxen but some towns again seemed to have more than others. I wondered what purpose the pigs had, as oxen pull carts cow and goats produce milk and most people are vegetarian, and pigs don’t give milk as far as I know and even the Muslims don’t eat pork, so it seemed if you’re a pig in India you were pretty much free to live a good life and there was plenty of waste to feed the family. A German guy I met later said they were there to bring a smile to your face and he had a point. They certainly did make me laugh.
But something that I am finding difficult to swallow is the pollution and the piles of garbage, I just can’t get my head around it. Perhaps that is my thing as I am very much into recycling and picking up your rubbish, taking it home, taking responsibility etc. But here the sheer scale of it is staggering. I’d eaten a bag of bananas on the bus and bagged them up and was going to put them in the bin at the bus station. The bus conductor indicated that I should sling them out the window. I indicated that I would save them till the bus station. He looked at me strangely. (There was no bin at the bus station) People have become used to it or has India always been this way? The dust and the dirt fine, I quite like a bit of dust and dirt, but the piles of garbage, the open stinking sewers, the dead rivers, the piles of plastic and rotting waste the scarred and battered landscape, no sorry I don’t get it.
But there is something they have that we don’t. Those police programs that we have in the UK and America, you know the ones, the US version is car chases and road smashes and helicopters , the UK version is thieves violence and drunken decadent spoiled Brits last thing at night, abusing each other and then turning on the cops. From here now it seems so ugly. Though that in itself it is suffering isn’t it, all that bottled up frustration pouring out. Maybe that is the price we pay maybe that is western suffering and maybe we in the west have chosen to experience that kind of suffering this time around.
But there is nothing of that here and in fact I have not once felt threatened. I have a long way to go yet and we shall see, but so far I am at ease. The people from what I have seen in my short time here are all getting by, by what ever means they can, there are things that a government should do for it’s country and for its people of course and here it is in your face just where would be good a good place for them to start. But maybe people need to strive, maybe they need the struggle, maybe that is where our self worth and our creativity is in suffering and so striving. When all our decisions are made for us down to where and when and how you cross the road, is that where rage starts. You are responsible for yourself first and foremost and at the end of the day it is how you carry yourself through your journey that really matters whether you are a king or a bus conductor. People here are faced with different problems, they cooperate or seem to, they get by on their own cunning or creativity, what ever you want to call it, and in that I believe is a gem
We pulled of the highway at some point as it was suddenly a smooth road the air was slightly cooler mountains appeared, the land started to look greener. A sort of calm came down over the bus as the sun began to set over the far away mountains and although there were farm animals in the towns it seemed that we had arrived for real in rural India. By the time we got tro Badami it was just after twilight so the place seemed like a raw frontier town kicking up a cloud of dust in a whirl of activity. A few dim streets lights, the flashing head lights from all the motley assortment of vehicles and a row of illuminated stalls set back just off the road. I stepped out into the road with a don’t mess with me head on, but honestly once the dust had settled there really was no need. They really didn’t care. I strode confidently in and out the 3 hotels around the bus terminal and went for the cheaper “New Satkar deluxe”, deluxe it wasn’t, but it was clean had a fan on the ceiling and a big padlock on the door. I simply dropped my bags took my lap top and headed back out to find something to eat found it right next door. I got myself some vegetable rice and a lentils dal drew curious looks which I disarmed with a few bright hello’s and settled down to catch up. Great day.
Oh and I am sleeping well here, very well.