Sunday, January 18, 2009

Junagadh: Steps of oblivion

The caves yesterday were the highlight of my day but before I get to that I will talk about the events leading up to it.

Barely anyone here speaks any English so getting to the caves was quite the expierience. The caves are right next to a fort so once I realize maybe they,
"know the fort?"
"ha (yes) fort"
"chelo" (lets go)"
So I go check out the fort and it was quite the site. It was run down but still in tact but the part that was awesome was that all the trees have been growing around the fort so it had the ancient abandonded feel with a dash of immense history behind it. Gujarat has a interesting scenary behind it. At timesyou feel as if you are in a tropical green forrest at other times it feels as if you are in a dead dessert and sometimes its a mix of both. At the fort, it felt like a jungle, it was out of this world. There was a large courtyard in the center and all around there was spots for guns and cannons (even had a few bolted down!)
After seeing the fort I go to the court yard and read a million little pieces. Im within the last 175 pages and I dont want to put it down, but I must in order to see the caves and get back in time. (This whole limiting myself to one book at a time isnt going to work, I get involved in a book but have to pace myself so I dont read it in a day and have nothing to read for the next week)

So I exit the fort and walk down the road to the caves and along the way there was an ancient muslim mosque. Absolutely stunning architecture.The inside of the mosque was open but massive pillars every few feet and up on the roof was just open. The muslims feel that they gain merit by building mosques which explains their vast quanity and beauty. After mosque it was the caves. It cost a foreigner 100 rupees and a indian 5 rupees (a common thing at sights, over charge the foreigner atleast 10x)The caves had three stories. The upper level was all open with random crater like holes in the ground and steps leading to the lower levels. The second level was quite open, dimmly lit and had figures carved on parts of the walls. Lots of the figures were broken, missing legs, arms, or parts of the face. The main attraction was the bottom floor. When I entered no one was there (which was quite a blessing because it must have been "annoying group of kids day" because there was seriously 1385733 kids there all screaming) Upon entering I encountered the most serene silence before me. When I entered I let out a silent "whoa" just cause the silent presence there was unlike anything I have ever felt before. I felt even my breathing was a disturbance to the serenity in this place. It was dark in this level except in the very middle where it was open to the second and ground level. But even all that sunlight beaming down the center kept the rest of the place nice and dim. I felt extremely comfortable here. Here the carvings were alot more in number and more in tact, but still broken nonetheless. Immediately kids start pouring in screaming, pounding on the pillars, and defliing the ambience of this place. I take a seat in the corner and patiently wait for it to be silent again. Even when it was silent, I couldnt move, I didnt want to move to disturb even the dust under my feet. So I didnt. Kids kept pouring in and out so I made my way towards the door to leave. Kids were still pouring in, so I waited by the enterance til the flow stopped. A group of women peak their head in, see me and scream bloody murder and run back up the stairs away from me. I immediately had a flash of an episode of friends where monica and rachel get scarred by their new big bearded neighbor in the darkness of their apartments basement and upon realizing this, I charge towards the group growling and waving my hands in the air, and the kids bolt as if I was the boogyeman going to eat their brains from their nostrils! It was hilarious. It was all for laughs and laugh I did. I had a smile on my face the whole rest of the day.

After the caves it was time to go back to the hotel and on my way back I saw my first and only tourist other than myself on the way. Out of 4 days being here Ive only seen 1 tourist. When I got back, I went to a nearby restaurant across the street from my hotel and ordered a thali and got more immersed in the book. It started getting even more interesting so I went up to my room and couldnt put it down. I knew I had to pace myself but I couldnt, I kept reading until the last 20 pages but stopped because I wanted some to read today. By this time it was getting towards night time and I had an early day ahead of me today so I crashed early and got even more eaten alive by these mosquitoes while alseep! Even on my face! Aghhhhh!!! Sleep here isnt the best, I constantly get woken up by not only the 100000x mosquitoes but the stray dogs. Its as if right outisde the hotel is where they all meet and have their fighting matches because each night and multiple times a night I am woken up by dogs growling, attacking, yelping, crying, and howling in large numbers and very very loud.

So I woke up late so I hurried and rushed out to get to the hill climb on time. I wanted to get some pictures of the sunrise climbing so I hurried as fast as I could to get there. Turns out I got there at 6, it was still dark out. Yes, I could still get some pictures in time, I thought to myself. I would say honestly I was walking with 1000 indians, they all kept staring at me and laughing (the typical reaction to tourists) and I just kept to myself and kept walking with my head towards the ground and music blaring in my ears. It started to get light out and the sun was rising, but it was rising behind the mountain I was climbing so as a result, no pictures of the sunrise. Oh well. I keep walking, and climbing, and 6 hours later I reach the end after many, many breaks breaks. They were not 10,000 steps consecutively one after another. They would be grouped in anything from 1 to 10 at a time with somtimes5 to 30 feet to the next group of stairs. It wasnt straight either, it would zig zag, and for the most part it was uphill the whole way there and downhill the whole way back.And the whole way I kept getting attention as if I was Angelina Jolie. I could never be famous. I hate attention and being put on the spot. So to keep all of the annoying questions away temporarily each time I was asked which country I was from, I would put on my best spanish accent and say "Spain". The next question would be what is your name and I would say "Carlos". Yep, my name is Carlos and I am from Spain. Any other questions, I would respond with that I dont speak good english and reiterate it over in spanish. I remember alot of my spanish from high school especially talking with people I meet here in India that are really from Spain. In all reality, I did not want to be bothered with questions or given special attention. I am uncomfortably hot, dehydrated, trying to ignore the fact that each article of clothing I had on felt like I got pushed in a swimming pool, and still have so much more to climb, I just wanted to be left alone to listen to music so I could forget about these steps of oblivion.

At one point I take a break almost half way and walk off the trail toget some alone time and find a great excellent view point away from everyone. I had good tunes on and was trying to rest and center myself so I could make it up alittle farther. Then two minutes later someone walks where I am at, and two feet away from me and just a step below me, decides to add to my serene moment by deficating right next to me. Thanks buddy. Initially I start to get pissed. Here I am trying to relax and some guy decides to pop a squat right next to me, and after hearing me say this to myself I immediately see how hilarious this is actually is and immediately the anger is gone and replaced by an uncontrollable laughter. Im ready to keep climbing now.

About half way I meet a sincere young indian boy named Keyur. Hes 19 and I didnt mind talking to him because he was sincere and not all laughy, giggly and immature like 99% of indian boys and sadly, young men. I felt bad telling him I am from Spain and all that and mad a vow not to do this again, however it was fun being from Spain momentarily. He told me alot about this hill, that lions live in the hills as do naked yogis who take drugs to get close to god. Seems to me that would being you away from God but hey, what ever works for you I guess. There was also a race up the hill, some crazy indian made it up to the half way point (5000 stairs all uphill in 56 minutes) it took me 4 hours! ahahah The temples on the way were absoltely stunning. The most intricate carvings I have ever seen in person. Ive seen stuff like this on the internet but never in person. This is the kind of stuff I expected to see in the south from what Ive researched. Absolutely stunning. Near the half way point there were these two temples, one a faded black almost gray and the other a beige color. Both had intricately carved out gods and goddesses all along the border and precisely cut patterns below and around them. Every square centimeter was carved with precision, it was just lovely.

The last temple was no bigger than my room and to be quite honest was a bit of a disappointment being the last you would think it was the grand finale, what you climed 10,000 steps for. But it wasnt. No carvings, no crazy architecture. Just a small white room with some guy collecting money next to a worn down statue (So worn down i couldnt even make out who it was) and on your way out you rung a bell. The bell was the highlight of the finale.

On my way back I start to get the business card for the hotel I am staying at and its not in my pocket, the other pocket, back pocket, chest pocket, or in my backpack. Neither is my phone. I left them BOTH at the hotel being rushed this morning. "Getting back will be interesting", I thought to myself.
I dont know the name of my hotel, what street its on, or how to even speak enough hindi to tell my driver my dilemma. I know ill get there, and keep positive. Let it go, deal with it when the time comes. Shortly after realizing this, I see a man walking infront of me with a shirt on that has pot leaves all around it and a big joint at the bottom that says "legalize it" I have to take a picture of this, so I do. He turns around and starts talking to me. He too was a nice sincere man, actually from Diu, where I am going tomarrow and when I told him about my predicament, he replied with
"i will talk to the rickshaw driver and make sure you get there ok? dont worry, be happy my friend"

On the walk back my legs were shaking with each step from being worked way too hard and shooting pains were going up my left knee. 20,000 steps in one day is just too many, too many...Each 100 steps seemed like an eternity to get back. There were porters that would carry people up and or down the mountain and would charge a HEFTY amount based on your weight, which for valid reason. That is a tough job, jesus! Its just a huge wooden pole and rope that holds a bench in the center for the person to sit on, while being carried by a man in the front and man at the back, pole on their shoulders. I take my hat off to these workers, now that is hard labor. But I tell you, the relief I felt when I saw I was done was in describable. Would I do it over again...Yes, definately....But not any time soon!

The pot man tells me to go with him on a rickshaw where he talks to the rickshaw driver and me,
"do you rememeber the name of the hotel"
"Do you remember any names of the buildings by the hotel?"
"do you remember anything?..."
"there is a petrol pump by my hotel near a roundabout and the hotels name is like maha...maha..vanti?"
he talks to the driver and after 5 minutes the rickshaw driver looks at me and says
"yes! thats it"
"ok he knows where it is"

I am on my way I dont know how but thanks to the kindness of this man, and the loving grace of god, I am getting back to my hotel. To be honest, im flabbergasted that I was able to get back, espeically so quickly. I accepted the fact long ago that I would be wondering on foot til around midnight and was cool with that, but it all worked out in the best way possible. When I get dropped of, I thank the man with the uppmost gratitude within my heart and go to give him money and he walks away upon seeing that. He turns back and I put my hands in a prayer at the center of my chest, put the largest smile on my face, and tell him thank you, thank you so much, thank you.

Now it was time to feast. All Ive had all day was 2 bottles of water and peanuts. So there is no doubt it was time to catch up. I go to my little restaurant across the way order my thali and devour every bit. After finsihing that meal, I go next story and buy 2 things of cookies walk back to my hotel and finish a million little pieces. Oh how I related to the man who wrote that book. His attitude and mine are very similar. He believes in taking personal responsibility for your actions and not placing it in the hands of a support group, higher power, or 12 steps. Everyone thinks he will fail at sobriety because they all say "AA is the only thing to guarantee continued sobritey". I spit in the face of people who say you cannot remain sober without AA. Yes, it has worked for thousands maybe even millions of people, but it is in no way, THE ONLY WAY. Me and james frey (the author) are just two examples of the thousands of people who stay sober without AA, support groups, or higher powers. I have ALWAYS disagreed with that concept. I dont need AA and have been sober for almost 4 years, on my own, without support groups or 12 steps, just me.I dont know how much of the story is actually true but it was a blast to read. After finishing the book it was time to take a lovely ice cold shower. Its funny now I look forward to them after scorching in the baking sun all day. After that, I went and bought 2 chais, 2 mangoes (junagadh is famous for its fruit, especially mangoes) and a coconut where the seller made it into a beverage and when you were done drinking the coconut milk through a straw he took a hatchet and violently hit it twice to break it open for you to eat the inside. I am beyond full and it feels great.

Tomarrow I get on a bus to Diu and will hang out there for about a week or so, I dont have to be in Delhi til the 30th for the wedding so I got alot of time to be a beach bum. Stoked!!!!

Much love to you all.
Be happy!