Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From Kurnool

I remarked to someone earlier this season that the monsoons were passing me by, that somehow this year I hadn’t taken the time to linger in contemplation of clouds, or stood by the window watching rain fall, or even been caught in a drizzle. Foolish, of course, to say these things aloud and tempt the gods into uproarious laughter at your expense. Since I made that rash comment, I’ve hardly been dry.

Maredumilli I told you about here. Since then there have been less thrilling adventures every other day when we wrestle with our alternate-day water-supply. In Hyderabad, I can tell you without consulting the Met department, it has rained every other day since June at 6.00 in the evening.

Then, Ahobilam happens. I’m here on assignment and I thought it would be a nice change from tramping about in the wet, chasing birds and other nonsense. It’s a temple town, so I would enjoy the laidback-ness of it all, gawk at temple architecture, ask what century and so on. The most strenuous activity, I hoped, would be the pradakshina, or at the most trying for the best vantage points for the pictures. Hah hah.

First, it rains throughout. THROUGHOUT. Slow rain, fast rain, torrential rain, flash floods, everything. Second, Ahobilam doesn’t have the decency to be a one-spot temple town – it must needs be the centre of a temple complex, the various shrines of which are flung within a seven-kilometre radius. Ok, I say to myself, that’s fine – I have transportation and I could use a few drives in rain drenched hill roads. But no, ‘car won’t go there, madam. We have to go by walk.’ Do I hafta? I’m getting a little whiny here. Well, it transpires there are nine shrines of the Lord Narasimha – he RULES these hills, by the way – that everyone aspires to see. See, the whole thing is so devious: if you give people a number like that with legends and romance attached, anyone with an ounce of the fanaticism that drives collectors is sure to hare off, notching them up. Anyone would, really.

So, ‘by walk’ it was to be. By now reconciled, I arrived shiny eyed and bushy tailed, joined duly by the guide. I had acquired a new full-suit raincoat that I was eager to try out. I donned it, feeling very like a hearty all-weather English woman. The weather turned a bit waspish and the drizzle thickened. Seenu-Guide set a pushing pace, and we encountered a couple of other guides, cronies who hailed him, wanting to know where he was headed. ‘Jwala,’ he told them succinctly, this being the Narasimha we were setting off to see – merely four kilometers uphill, but a steepish climb. I noticed raised brows and dubious looks; there was not much traffic today, and most guides had taken the day off. A little way into the trail I saw why. The path we were supposed to take is up a rocky hill stream – not alongside it, up it. Normally this is doable and in dry season, it should be possible to do it without getting your feet wet. Now, of course, it has been raining for three days and the waters were roaring and rising still. With one hand wasted on the umbrella we waded into the gushing stream, gingerly feeling underfoot for stable rocks, trying to maintain balance in the face of some very business-like waters.

Of all things I dislike on a trail, wet rocks are the worst. They can be treacherous and I’ve slipped and fallen a couple of times, once banging my knee badly. Now I was expected to walk about two and half kilometers through this rock-strewn stream, traversing it back and forth in an attempt to find the easiest path. The feat was accomplished without damage to life or limb, and I gave much thanks to my all-rubber Bata sandals, although I must write to them about the quality of their Velcro.

How striking are the differences between adventure enthusiasts and the uninformed pilgrim-adventurer. The first is detail obsessed and particular about preparation, gear and safety; the second knows nothing of all this, will turn up in saree and heels and still manage to do everything the former does! It is quite lowering.

Back now in the hotel room and because I leave here tomorrow, I promise you the sun will be out.