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Archive for January, 2008

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Welcome to India Part VII: Sand and Surf

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

What can be said about relaxing on India’s beaches?  Many things could be, but at the same time none should be, at least none that can do it true justice.  First of all, the weather is ideal: warm all day, moderately cool at night and a nice breeze keeps the sea air fresh in my lungs.  While I can easily go cool down in the lukewarm ocean, the sun is far from oppressive.  The sand is smooth under foot and free of litter.  The beach is sparsely populated enough to allow privacy and peace, yet there are still enough people to meet for encounters of invigorating conversation.  The occasional bovine wanders out from the fields to remind that this is still India, and that it’s merely another of it’s many faces.   [read on]

A Major Misnomer

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

After a pleasant week in Hampi, full of exploration as well as paying work, my long deserved vacation from travelling is at hand. I plan to waste away on a beach somewhere in Gokarna until my spirit for adventure fully recovers.    [read on]

Notice: Vacation

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

In a couple hours I am leaving for one of the Gokarna Beaches in India. I will be staying in a beach hut far from any computer and taking a well needed holiday from all of this crazy travelling. Please don’t fret if I don’t respond to any emails for the next couple weeks… I am still alive, and will be very much taking advantage of the fact by doing nothing in particular.

For your envious enjoyment:

Welcome to India Part VI: Celebration

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

I’ve been in Hampi for five days already. Alas, only one day was allowed for exploring on motorcycle. The rest have been consumed with work on the article in an internet café. While it is earning me a few weeks of travel money, it is also eating away at my chance to explore Hampi. So on this fifth day, it’s time to crawl away from the glow of a computer screen and let natural light grace my eyes again. I mount the motorcycle and speed out of town.

see all of my photos from the Krishna Temple

I make a quick stop at the Krishna Temple, which I missed on my previous expedition, but quickly leave when I find nothing unique or impressive compared to yesterday’s wonders. Another beautiful ride along the same road from a few days ago brings me past the Vitthala temple. I arrive at the Tungabhadra River and find that the bridge has been left half-constructed and there is at least a ten-meter gap over the water below, so I ride down a rough path and ferry across in a shaky circular coracle boat. On the other side I am greeted with a more lush landscape than that around the Bazaar and ruins of the Royal Center. Here the omnipresent massive boulders are surrounded with a healthy compliment of bright green rice paddies and looming palm trees.

After a mere five minutes on the other side of the river I hear the sound of approaching drums. Rounding a corner I spot the source: a lively festival parade accompanied by the cacophony of five different drum-lines banging away different rhythms at different tempos. An assortment of characters colorfully dressed as the divine legends of Hindu lore escort gypsy women, sadhus and Lakshmi the elephant through the rice fields aroundthe Durga Temple. I pause my journey for a short while to revel in the merriments of the slow progression, but after a while my eardrums begin to bleed from the excessive noise and I continue down the road.

see all of my photos from the Mucharen Festival

Eventually, I pull into the parking lot of my destination and through the scorching midday heat, climb the five hundred of steps up Anjanadri Hill to the Hanuman Temple. The famous monkeys, probably trying to escape the blistering sunlight, make them self sparse and the building is nothing worth mention, but the vista found up top is spectacular! This landscape I’ve grown accustomed to riding trough takes on an even more extraordinary form from this height. Aside from the joy of beauty, the climb lends some inspiration to explore a few uncharted paths only visible from this bird’s eye view. I waste no time and descend to the motorcycle and back into gear.

see all of misc photos from the other side of the river

A short trip along the paved road brings me to a small village where I turn onto its dirt roads and forge deeper off the beaten track. Eventually the trail thins out to nothing and I pave my own path across an unkempt field. This brief excursion off-road brings me to an unexpected oasis in the countryside of Karnataka; tucked behind the fields of rice and palm tree walls is an ideal cottage hidden from the world. The minimalist structure reeks of chic elegance. The multi-hued flowers spilling onto its broad wood porch frame a perfect view of the Hampi landscape. Across the well-tended lawn and a cerulean-tinted river are gracefully stacked boulders and the ruins of the Vitthala Temple. A stylish stone path leads off through groves of varied flowers and across a trickling stream. Butterflies and bumblebees are the only populace of this secluded and currently abandoned haven of tranquility. The doors and windows are all locked tightly, but that doesn’t stop me from lingering a while on the porch and appreciating this hidden grove of serenity.

see all of my photos from the Secluded Cottage

But alas, the bike is due back today and the peace must be broken. I climb back on the motorcycle and set off to further explore this side of the river. The traffic here is sparse, the pavement is intact and the scenery spares no beauty from its repertoire. The experience is fantastic, and I forgo any other tourist spots to simply ride for the next couple hours. I eventually run short on time and make one last stop in the village of Anegundi before unenthusiastically returning to the other shore.

see all of my photos from Anegundi

I think I’ve run out of praise for motorcycling. To avoid being redundant, I will merely let the multitude of unique experiences speak for themselves. Meanwhile the desire to purchase my own bike and avoid limitations of constant rentals is tugging stronger with each trip.

See all of my photos from the Tungabhadra River


Exploring the Ruins Part II: Risk vs. Reward

Friday, January 18th, 2008

After returning from my excursion into the wilderness and back to the Royal Center Ruins, I make my way into the Hazararama Temple reserved exclusively for the former nobility.  The structure is beautifully preserved.  Intricate carvings detail all of the columns and facades.  The former glory of this dead civilization further impresses itself on me every minute, but this section is overrun by tourists and schoolchildren.   The overabundance of people is wearing away the passive clarity that I achieved in the solitude on top of the boulder hill, so I climb back on the motorcycle and head for a more remote temple to explore.    [read on]

Exploring the Ruins Part I: Bouldering

Friday, January 18th, 2008


After a week of excessive train trips I have finally arrived at a destination to linger in: The small market-town of Hampi Bazaar lies within a landscape strewn with massive boulders and sub-tropical flora.  Scattered throughout this already impressive scenery are the ruins of the eight-hundred year-old city of Vijayanagara.  Remnants of old crumbling walls and columns of ancient structures are frequently found lingering the countryside.  Sporadically spread amongst them are temple complexes adorned with elaborate rock carvings and grand halls of massive stone-work that paint a vivid picture of this former civilizations glory.    [read on]

South Karnataka in a Day

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

As Kanako’s and my last encore together, we plan a hectic day of rapid-fire touristing through the southern part of Karnaraka.  Our train arrives in Mysore before noon and we quickly make our way to the Devaraja Market.  This brisk excursion into the Indian bazaar is a full on assault to the senses.  Hordes of vendors peddle colorful kumkum powder along side fruit-wallahs and fragrant flowers.  Here, I fall victim to a violent allergy attack and my sinus begin to flare so bad that it brings tears to my eyes.  We quickly escape and take an auto-rickshaw over to the Maharaja’s Palace.    [read on]

Welcome to India Part V: The Jones Experience

Monday, January 14th, 2008

After another restless night spent on a sleeper train, I awake at dawn. Light is pouring onto my face from the windows freshly opened across the aisle. As my eyes slowly adjust to the drastic change in contrast, I begin to notice the incredible scenery passing outside. I leap up and run to the open door of the coach to stare at the impressive landscape of Tamil Nadu. Under a baby blue sky patched with soft-pink clouds lie plains of vibrant green rice paddies, sparse palm trees, cobalt lakes, wind-power generators and distant rock protrusions. Words cannot describe the richness of color extending in all directions. The spirit of life overwhelms me and I step out the open door. The great rush of wind tries to loosen my hands from their tight grip on the ladder outside the train. But I hang on, resolutely determined to enjoy this rush of adrenaline and refreshing wake up call.    [read on]

Welcome to India Part IV: The Serene

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Light jazz eases its way out of the speakers. Not that Kenny G smooth-jazz BS, but rather the sophisticated classic styles of Dave Brubek, Billie Holiday and Chet Baker. The large cruising boat, stylized like a traditional Kettuvallam rice barge on the outside and an elegant colonial resort on the interior, gently floats through the sublime backwaters. Other than the light purr of the motor lightly vibrating the vessel, the only sounds from the surroundings are the ripples of water in our wake and the intermittent relentless demand for “One Pen” by children we pass on the riverbanks. The soothing audio effectively compounds with the relaxed pace of Kerala to fulfill all of the grand predictions of the house-boat experience. This is the truly a perfect setting to lose troubles and thoughts of the outside world.    [read on]

Lazily seeping down into Kerala

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

One week into the New Year, I regretfully say farewell to Ratnadeep, his amazing family and the unprecedented hospitality they blessed me with. It has been a spectacular few weeks that will never fade from memory, but also a wake up call that life is meant to be lived. So without glancing back, I board another epic thirty-hour train bound for the southern state of Kerala.    [read on]