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India Trip – Day Nine

This day starts VERY early, as I awaken 5 minutes before the alarm at 4:10 AM.  Sridevi even got up without much complaint!  We have to make it to the train station early to get tickets and catch our 6:30 train to the Borra Caves.  Basically we are off to a set of caves that have been under way for more than a million years.

Our trip to the station is almost surreal, as I haven’t seen these streets empty before.  Basically, there is no hustle and bustle at 5:30 AM.  In fact, the streets are bare.  People are beginning to stir, but they haven’t made it en-mass to their cars, scooters, bikes or even their trucks and buses…

The sheer crush of humanity that is India explodes to a whole new level as we enter the train station though.  I’m not sure what Nanna paid to get us good seats at the last minute (They were GREAT seats), but the actual ticket was about 32 rupees (about $0.80) for the both of us.  Until he pulled that off, I was actually sitting in the overhead luggage rack.  I’m not huge, but I am 5’9″ and I do weigh nearly 190 lbs…  And there I was.  I’ve begun to learn about these crowds though.  They will push until pushed back, and if you want to get through, you just have to push through.

Finally though, we had seats in the AP Tourism car and I had myself a window view as we chugged through about 40 kilometers of city and rice paddies and then up another 50 or so kilometers of mountain climbing (about 35 tunnels too).  One of the benefits of the “flexibility” that a few hundred rupees can supply even got us 10 kilometers in the cab of the train.

Basically on a handshake agreement, the guy that “arranged” for the window seat, followed up by ushering us forward between the train and another parked train at one of the stations. When we got to the front, Sridevi and I clambered up about six feet into the cab and met up with another five brave souls who had parted with their hundred rupees each as well.  You’ll have to see the photos (there are a LOT for today, more than 180 I think) to decide if it was worth the $4.00 that we spent on it, but we sure enjoyed it.

It was about 10:00 when we pulled into the train station that serves Borra Caves and we had gotten there before Nanna & Amma, who were driving.  Imagine my surprise (ok, fear) to find that a local villager was “inhabited by a god” and along with the rest of the tribe, pulling random people from the crowd in the parking lot to beat them about the face with a branch to drive the “devil” out.  I’m still not sure if this was “staged” for the tourists (while I was the only white guy, there were hundreds of Indian tourists there).  At any rate, we backed up and waited by the tracks.

Luckily the whole thing seemed to calm down, and in about 15 minutes when Nanna arrived, we felt safe enough to skirt the lot and made it to the car safely.  It was about a 5 minute drive from the station at Borraguhalu to the caves and each second seemed to take us further into tourist country.

Once there though, I got to see my first monkeys and the caves didn’t disappoint.  It turns out that William King, a british geographer, located the cave in 1807.  A local cow had fallen through the ceiling and washed out into the river (still alive) FAR below.  This at once made the cow AND the cave famous (at least according to our guide).

A quick note about the new lens that I got for this trip.  If I haven’t said it before now, WOW.  WOW.  There was NO light in the cave (at least by camera standards) and I was able to get tons of good pics, I even managed to get a formation and it’s reflection in a pool.

The climb out began to remind me that we hadn’t eaten but a few small sandwiches for breakfast, so I was glad to be part of the decision to push our way to the hotel (Jungle Bells of all names) and eat our lunch which Amma had prepared from home.

Driving in the mountains here is something that you actually have to experience to understand.  As you approach a hairpin curve, you sound the horn repeatedly, and so hopefully does the oncoming driver.  Passing on a tight roadway in the mountains anywhere is an experience, but here, with bikes, scooters, motorcycles, trucks, buses and cars (not to mention the cows, goats and pedestrians), it should be spine tingling.  Truly though, it doesn’t end up that way, which makes it all the more surreal.

We pulled into the hotel and met in Amma & Nanna’s “cottage” for lunch, after which, a nap was just right, followed by a quick walk down the hill to the train station where even more photos were taken.  Our arrival back at the hotel coincided with the arrival of the evening’s entertainers, a group of local “tribals” who gather twice a week to perform local dances for the guests.

While the light was truly challenging, I did get an amazing array of photos.  The group was clearly having fun performing and even let Sridevi and another guest join in.  The music was a mixture of hide drums (tuned & tightened over a campfire on the spot) and a relative of the trumpet (think snake charming) which in the dim light was just the right accompaniment.  I culled MANY from the more than 200 pictures that I shot and even combined 48 of them into a video …

Other than the “wall lizard” that pretty much ends a full day…  Stay tuned for tomorrow which will start with a 6:00 AM guided “Nature Walk”.

From India Trip – Day 3

Posted in Family, India, Photos.

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