So I’m getting out of the rickshaw it’s about 6.40am and I’m at Aurangabad bus station to get the 7am bus to Lonar. Which is a village situated on the edge of an ancient meteorite crater which contains a beautiful lake and some wonderful wildlife, or so I’m told. I’m in the process of paying the driver and putting my pack on when a guy comes up and says
“Hello where is it you’d like to go” I’m actually getting out of a rickshaw, so I say
“I’d like to go to the bus station please”
He blinked and then said “Welcome to the bus station sir”
I said “thank you” and walked past. It’s just second nature to these guys, if they see you with a bag they just ask, sometimes it’s funny sometimes not so. There were people asleep all over the floor in the place, I watched a guy asleep in the middle of the concourse, get up, pick his brush up and just start sweeping. I don’t know what to say about it anymore.
The bus was a 4 hour ride. The conductor spoiled my men in brown are saints ideal by being a bit of an ass. The sights and sound that morning were just wearing at me. The stink and the grime from outside in the streets as we passed through were just too much that morning, coupled with the guy in front of me having a really bad case or psoriasis and was unconsciously picking and flaking pieces of it off for about an hour leaving bits of dry skin hanging from his hair and all over his shoulders, I’m sorry for him but it was not pleasant and as I say there was no escape. Out the window too, scene after scene of devastation, rot and decay coupled with the smells and stench. I’m sorry to say but I retreated. I bowed my head and closed my eyes.
The suddenly I’m looking at a pale stone room, it has been newly swept I can smell its cleanness. And I say
“A clean room great, Thank you so much” next there is a man who appears to be floating he’s dressed in robes that seem to be floating too, they are a light olive color but with greens and blues in there too. He lifted his arms to the side as if to bow and say no problem thank you and receded into the distance. I was really startled, but at the same time ok with it. The guy picking his head got off next stop and 3 young guys all computer engineers came and sat with me all the way to Lonar as they were going to the crater too. Even the conductor changed his mind and was now back on course and living up to the standards I have come to expect from the men in brown.
Lonar town looked like any other and I was all for getting to the MTDC hotel asap so I could drop my bags and get out into the crater. You see I had had massive instinct hints to stay another day here but I’d just missed being able to change my ticket on the railways and instinct was telling me big time that this place was going to be special. I was almost tempted to just tear the ticket up and re book another for the next day. But it was all too late and I knew I would kick myself, and in fact did and have been doing and it’s starting to hurt so I’ll just stop once I have finished this.
We said good bye and that we might meet later in the crater. I got a rickshaw 30r up to the hotel I didn’t even have to say the name they knew where I was heading. I saw the rickshaw drive was really unhappy having to work for a mafia, he never said his fare, he was told by a big guy out there in the road commanding, I felt sorry for him. What a life eh, borderline poverty, in fact in all probability below the line poverty and then you had to work for bullies who took a cut of you money. Sad and humiliating.
I booked in dropped my bags and went straight up to the restaurant as I was starving. It was a huge a place and there was nobody there.
“Hello,” I called row. I took a while to track the cook down. I ordered a masala omelet then sat there at a row of tables on the veranda that looked out over the main road and across to the crater. A cool fresh breeze, yes that was what I said, cool fresh gentle breeze that seemed to blow up from the crater just a stones throw in front. It is the biggest Meteorite crater in Asia and the 3rd largest in the world a lady told me later. You couldn’t see it completely but you could certainly gauge its spectacular size. So when dinner was still traveling down my throat not yet reached the tummy I was off across the road, and then bam
Oh what a place. It was what I have been starving for these last few days, I need some nature. I love the Monuments and the caves and all the fabulous art there which hints at the energy and the universe, but out in a wild place, in the woods particularly I can see it and I am truly in my element. The crater is apparently a mile across to approximately 2 miles around the lip. The steep slope down to the lake brown and yellow as it was still dry season. There is a ring of lush green right around a deep green almost glass calm lake, and dotted around the shore are various temples, some in complete ruin and others still vibrant alive and receiving devotees. It was such a wonderful sight and I was down those rocks in no time, walking along the dirt path through the brittle dry woods and flickering sunshine. The only sound was my breathing, the birds in the trees, the monkey and the bees, oh and the odd mobile ring tone when ever I got near a temple. It was fabulous, shirt off, kicking up dust in little boy kind of happy way.
It wasn’t long before I came to the first temple, I poked my head into its dim interior as I could hear something from outside and smell the bats as I got near. As I peered it the volume of them hit me immediately, coming from the far end. There must have been hundreds of them so I crunched my way across their dried dusty droppings and peered very carefully into the pitch darkness. The odd bat would swoop down into the sunlight only to disappear into the darkness again. I’m not sure why they were making such a noise as normally I have found them to make the odd squeak but here the screeching was quite amazing as I knelt on at the step of the shrine the energy coming out of there was amazing and no way was I going in there, I poked the camera in to get it to flash but it wouldn’t take then all of a sudden the automatic flash finder kicked in and there on the ceiling were hundreds of bats all active and moving around in a great mass, the flash went off a few times and at one point I could see hundreds of glittering little pupils looking at me. I didn’t disturb them to much and left them alone to what ever they had been squabbling about before I got there.
I met the 3 guys again Mahesh, Umish and Mayur from the bus as I came out they were very kind and were going to the temple to have lunch they asked if I would I join them, I said I’d catch them up as I really just wanted some time out and would catch them later. So I’m wandering along and I’m nature boy right when around a curve in the path in the dry and shady golden woods come about 12 kids and before I have a chance to say anything I am in a football team line up in the centre back row with the goalie the defenders and the trainer squatted down in front and some guy is snapping away, it was really funny, we all shook hands of course and they said thank you, it was all so very polite and sweet. So we go our separate ways but before long I bump into the away team and I am in another line up, I’m not sure who they were or what they were doing but they sure made a fuss of me, it was actually really touching and I figured they the Indians have let me wander around their shines and holy places over the last month and take pictures with out a blink and it was payback time. I eventually made it to the main temple there by the waters edge, it was so perfectly idyllic, I took some really beautiful photographs. There were a bunch of trainee teachers gathered down there too having a day out together when I walked out of the woods with my shirt off it seemed to cause quite a stir so I put it back on besides I was on their holy ground and we need to be respectful regardless of the situations going on all along the path. Again I was completely surrounded but was well in the swing of it now and was winding them up about Bangladesh and India cricket game tomorrow and England on the 29th I shook hands with every body again, gosh. Remarkable there must have been 25 or 30 of them, I was in a nature reserve and I have shaken the hand of just about every person in there maybe 60 different people. the humour of it wasn’t lost on me. After I’d pottered around and taken some shots Umish called me across to eat with them which did, I hammed it up big time about how hot their spices were, much to their delight.
The teachers were all sat abut 20 feet away in a big group and each one is having to read a poem or sing a song, and umish and his mates had seen my guitar earlier and wanted to hear me sing, I tried to weedle my way out of it but they said
“You said you are a singer and we really want to hear you sing”
I pointed out that if I did the teachers would all stare, and it might be considered rude. But they weren’t having any of it so I said ok, waited till the teachers had a pause and sang “Sweet Medicine” it was great and when I’d done all the teachers started clapping too I took a hammy aristocratic bow, I was just rolling with it, it was just nice laughing with everybody there in the sunshine feeling free and uninhibited. I stayed with them a while longer but then pushed on as I wanted to walk all the way around.
It had been perfect as I left I looked back and everybody was waving and smiling, nobody tried to hold on. The place itself was like a something you dream about and the other wonderful thing was there was hardly any litter, only one or two plastic bags all afternoon which by Indian standards is a miracle.
I walked and talked all the way round played chase with the monkeys, they have such energy, I had no idea, peered into spiders tunnels and cocoons , that were spun in patches all across the crisp dried leaves that covered the place, craned my neck at massive hanging bee hives in the trees above, wild peacocks flew above alarmed at my sudden and silent appearance, dragon fly’s and all the many different birds on the lake. The lake itself close up didn’t look very swimmable it was salt water and was thick green with soupy algae around the edges. It smelled like a strange unwashed cousin of the sea which seemed odd out in the middle of dry arid plain.
I meditated there of course and had a great seeing, my energy would return and a sudden change in direction. I realized then that the place I had seen on the bus was here, it was clean and it was so very peaceful and everything was colored by orange yellow sunlight. I am becoming much more confident with what is coming.
Later I cut off the path and walked through banana plantations and freshly ploughed plots being super careful not to stand on the furrows. I walked down to the waters edge to watch the buffalo wading through the deep marshy grass and on the way back chatted with a farmer who showed me his fields of onions, potatoes, Palak, and of course the bananas and the trees that were full of a strange fruit called he said ‘Rampole’ I’d been walking though his plantation, he’d appeared with a big cleaver. I mention it for the picture effect but in fact wasn’t worried in the slightest. He was open and friendly, said he came to work here every day from the town. He loved it down there in the crater away from all the noise, and who could blame him, it was a little paradise.
I made my full circle and then began my ascent, I really didn’t want to leave, but I knew if I would regret not writing this up. I passed to hill runners as I got to the top, they stopped and asked me to take their picture. I watched them run all the way down to the Hanuman temple I had passed at the bottom of the trail. There was something about that moment there that seemed so real to me, two young fit guys in their prime racing each other into a volcanic crater to the shrine of the monkey god, it was all so matter of fact, just daily life, its the stuff people look for ion songs and poetry. Maybe I’ll write it as I saw it, I just for a few minutes had a window into their story.
I have sat all that evening up on the veranda had some dinner, palak and boiled rice, another masala omelet a couple of jugs of coffee writing whilst the sun set over the crater, people have come and gone quite a few have just sat and chatted. Music and beautiful voices have wafted on the breeze up from the village a mile or so away and the main road in between the hotel and the crater has been a procession of great goat herds, cows, ox carts and even a religious procession orange flags and all. It’s noticeable that there are hardly any cars here, just what I needed. It is a gem and the only sad thing about it is I have to leave tomorrow morning. I’m getting better at listening, I’m getting there and I’ll stop kicking now.