Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blow Horn: a Short Vacation

Last weekend we hired a driver and took a trip. Wendy made a great contact with a double ikhat weaver who is willing to share his secrets: some of this technique has never been documented. She won't be able to witness the whole process, which takes months to complete, but his willingness to talk about the work is a breakthrough.

We did a lot on this four night trip. We climbed a temple studded mountain with religious pilgrims and various hustlers. We got up at 5 a.m. one morning to hire a jeep and guide to look for asiatic lions in a huge forest preserve. And, along with various deer, birds, and wild boar, we saw a pair of lions. That was a primal moment. A tribal herdsman waved us down and directed us toward the huge animals. We had to drive off the legal road to see them, which added to the excitement. The guide and driver risked their licenses, but seemed just as excited as we were.

We also walked around an ancient Mughal fortress, and spent a night in a lodging built into an upstairs section of an old cathedral on the island of Dieu, a former Portuguese holding that didn't return to Indian rule until 1960. No surf, but a beautiful spot. At Somnath, we visited a meticulously restored Hindu temple on the shore of the Arabian sea. The high security included metal detectors, pat downs, and armed guards. Great music on shenai, drums and bells. Oh. Right after that, Wendy stepped up to her ankle in a gutter of raw sewage. A little black dog helped clean her, but she had to ride back to the hotel in an autorickshaw by herself.

We saw the recent remains of at least four accidents over the five days on the road. Early on we passed a big freight truck that had simply broken in the middle of the cargo area and sagged to the ground. We saw the still smouldering remains of a head on collision between a freight truck and a smaller, unidentifiable vehicle. Both had burned down to twisted, gray metal.

Traffic ranges from cows, to oxcarts, to bicycles, to autorickshaws, to tractors pulling wagons full of people, to wildly decorated freight trucks, to passenger cars. The whole road is fair game going in either direction. Honking never stops, is in fact expected and encouraged. I sat in the front seat, a mixed blessing, especially at night. We made it back.

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