Wednesday, December 8th
BikeShuffle: The Clash – Train in Vain
Shivamoga – 06:22
I was deliberating whether to turn the television on when it became apparent that the cock outside wasn’t about to stop crowing. I’m glad I did. For the past ten minutes I’ve been riveted by some sort of mass yoga show that seems more like a cross between a Hitler youth rally and a gathering of the Branch Davidians.
The guy leading it is a young bearded yogi in a tiny red dhoti, doing the moves so quickly it actually looks like he’s on fast forward. Then the camera cuts to a hall of at least a thousand poor, confused people, all dressed in white, hopelessly flapping about trying to follow him. The slow pan reveals that not a single person has a clue about what to do, or how to do it, and most people end up stopping to make adjustments to their clothing or look just around embarrassed. Some people save their energy for when the camera falls on them, and then start up with some half hearted routine based on how much of them is in shot. As most of the ‘class’ are elderly, and a little on the corpulent side, they’ve got about as much chance of doing some of these moves as I have of being clean after today’s drive.
Our energetic yogi has just done a roundhouse kick move that I’ve never seen attempted except in martial arts movies and break dancing videos. His class of a thousand grannies has started applauding! The next generation of aerobics has arrived, everyone. Its Yoga Fu.
A quick survey of remaining channels reveals: four featuring various cricket matches, three Hindi dance routines, and three religious channels with shots of various idols having liquids poured over them. Lastly, there seems to be some sort of religious sermon in hindi from a greasy-haired Brahmin who is rocking around back and forth, pulling voices and spooky smiley faces.
Through all of this I haven’t understood a word that’s been said (except for the occasional buried word of Hinglish that pops up), but it’s easily trumped an evening in front of British telly for pure comedy value.
Malur – 11:03
I take back all of the curses and grudges I have been harbouring against the NH13 since it nearly rattled my bones loose at Hospet. Although it did take a while for us to find each other this morning. After leaving the hotel at a reasonable hour, I followed the universal Indian hand gesture for straight ahead (imagine weaving your arm, snakelike, towards the skies. Waggle head and repeat), but found myself ten kilometers outside of Shimoga, traveling in the wrong direction.
Backtracking through town (subsequent directional gestures were identical, but this time I knew better), I found the highway 13 and headed south. Since then — and I know this is tantamount to asking for the road to turn to shit — it has been buttery smooth tarmac the likes of which you would find in some of the more insistent and better organized talukas of Goa. The scenery makes such a marked change from yesterday: gentle hills, forests, leafy glens. It’s been lovely to drive through it. The sun is shining and I have yet to get a single eyeful of dust or be past by a single honking Tata. Inasmuch as highways can hear you, I’m going to put in a plea for number 13 to keep up the good work.
Udupi – Hotel Usha – 19:38
Fuck am I dirty.
What’s more, there is something just a little obscene about having the telly turned on by the room boy and both of us gawping at a parade of runway models in freaky makeup strutting their stuff on Fashion Television. He looked at me like I was supposed to understand what was going on. I’m about as dirty as you can get without rolling around in pigshit, so I just shrugged. I haven’t got anything smaller than 500 rupees, so sadly he’s not getting a tip for throwing two white sheets on to the mattress. I decide to wait it out until he tires of FTV before taking a shower. It’s taking a little while.
Earlier today, I was putting in a serious bid for the planet’s most out of place laptop-toting motorcyclist. The word on (what passed for) the street was that there were some decent waterfalls at Agumbe (I’m disbelieving for the time being, the wikipedia assertion that the highest waterfalls in India are in the neighbourhood because no one seemed to have heard of them), but after lunch I decided to check out some that were supposed to be nearby. The exact directions were, ‘go down the road one kilometer, take a right and go another four kilometers, park your bike and you can walk to the falls there.’
What actually happened was: I found the first right ok, drove about seven or eight kilometers, and then stopped when I encountered a couple of shepherd types in the middle of the middle of nowhere. I asked about the nearby waterfalls, and one of the two guys dropped his sack and jumped straight on the back of my bike, motioning for me to go back the way I had come. We drove back about three kilometers, and turned up a tiny lay-by that I had noticed on the way down, but hadn’t considered as any sort of waterfall access. No respectable waterfall would have settled for such a humble approach.
But motion me down there he did, so I drove up the track and stopped beside a large pond. Except that my new friend was talking loudly at me in Kannada and gesturing for me to keep going. Through the pond.
I tried to ask him if it was much further, but he was just yelling and waving his hands, so I thought ‘what the heck, it must be impressive’.
The first time we had to drive up a boulder-strewn river bed, my friend wanted to stay on the bike. I obliged by nearly dropping him on his head. The second time we had to drive up a river bed he got off. Which is a good thing, because I nearly got bounced off myself. It was bad enough that there were two of us, but I was also driving with my laptop wedged between my legs, making maneuvering a tad difficult, and tight turns impossible.
We drove through thickets, meadows and even a river at one point, the submerged exhaust making a rather comical burble as it disappeared beneath the surface. I was totally paranoid that we would get a flat or have some other breakdown, which would have meant spending the night up in the mountains and a horrible afternoon trying to find help and then coerce them into following me to this godforsaken place.
Several times I tried to call it off, but my friend kept shouting at me and gesticulating wildly. Finally we came to a fallen log across the path that even he admitted was impassible. I thought that was it. I could turn around and save face. However, he was off the bike and heading down the path before I could get a word in. When he saw me try to turn the bike around, he came back and was nearly jumping up and down with excitement. I assumed we must be close, and since we had got this far, why not walk a little further?
I was wrong about being close. Another twenty minutes of walking and scrambling before we emerged at a sheer drop that gave us a view west over the valley. And there, about four hundred meters away, a cascade of water plunging straight down the cliff, a ribbon of hissing silver which cast a fine mist over the rolling treetops. It felt like the only people who could have ever made it this far. Then I spotted the inevitable cluster discarded plastic and realized that we were just the latest.