While in Mysore, I got an e-mail from my friend from the states, Paul Rosolie, that he was coming to India on Sunday. Paul is person who changed my perception on a lot of things by bringing me down to Peru to spend 2 weeks in the Amazon Jungle. It was the most amazing trip I've ever experienced. The flora, fauna, the beauty. I highly reccomend this to anyone.
In fact, before I begin with my own story I want everyone to be aware of Paul's company in Peru. The name is Tamandua Expeditions (www.tamanduajungle.com) and is run by Paul (the U.S.) and Juan-Julio (from Peru). If anyone is interested in going on an Amazon trip, finding out what Paul and Tamandu Jungle is doing to preserve the rainforest and educate people on the importance of what a big impact the rain forest has on the rest of the world, please find Tamandua Jungle or Paul on facebook, or e-mail him at: Paul@tamanduajungle.com or you can call his U.S. cell phone at: 201-675-5379
He is always looking for interested people, donations, or anything that will support the conservation of the biggest rainforest in the world. The rainforest is one of those really specific places that if something is out of place - a certain bee doesn't polinate a certain flower, or a certain animal doesn't migrate to another specific place - everything is out of whack. It affects everything else. I had the opportunity to witness when I was down there in December, that the biggest causes of these problems are loggers, oil companies and gold miners. They constantly disrupt the wildlife and flora patterns in the area. I would look into his organization, it's vastly important and I fully support all their efforts to make the world a better place. You should too.
But, onto to Bangalore. So while in Mysore, I got this e-mail from Paul and decided to arrive in Bangalore the same day as himself. I found a hotel, got some stuff unpacked and jumped on a bus to meet him at the bus terminal "Banashankari" as we had planned. I got out of the bus, and as if it were all planned out for us, Gowri and Paul got out of their auto rickshaw at the same exact time. It was all smiles and excitment, ready for what adventures lay ahead.
And off we went to eat dinner at Gowri's house. They were also nice enough to let me stay the night. The biggest change for me wasn't finally seeing friends, or being able to talk and communicate with people in a manner I was used to, it was being in a house. And not just a house. A home. A place where I fely physically and emotionally comfortable. I went from observing many different ways of life in India, living on a shoe-string budget, to living with a middle-class family. People that you might see on the street everyday, but never really see their homes.
I imagined Gowri's house as my own. If my parents were living in India, they would want the same quality of living that Gowri's parents have provided her. And it was great. A home cooked meal, a friendly cat that likes to sit on your lap, a couch. I was actually more relieved to hear that they didn't have cable TV in the house. I've gotten tired of watching TV. But I have been able to relax in the morning with a nice cup of home made chai and a paper to read. It's been great.
But being with Paul, a day of that is already too long. Let the adventure begin!!
On Tuesday, out of the blue and with no planning, we decided to go camping. Being in Bangalore, and having no idea where one could possibly go camping, I was confused. It's not like at home where we could drive 15 minutes and go to Harriman and get lost in the woods for 3 days. Instead, they told me about this giant monolithic rock. According to them, it's the second biggest in the world, called Savan Durga. The name might be misspelt. Either way, it used to be a summer home of sorts for Tipu Sultan, and what remains is the ruins of the house, some walls, and an old stable. And of course, being that it is so tall, there is a temple at the top.
So off we went. It was Paul and Gowri, as well as Gowri's sister Siri, and myself.
We took our time and climbed around the rocks, and made our way to the top. In one small alcove of rocks there was a tree with many vines growing. They grew up and down, side ways, snaking their way around the rocks and boulders, some how finding water and soil for nourishment. As amazing as the tree looked (you can see it in the pictures, the one with me crouching on a branch to the right is a good example), for us it was a play ground. Like monkeys we jumped and leaped from branch to branch. We swung and hung and made jokes and climbed around. That is, until we realized the sun was quickly setting and we needed to make it to the top before dark.
Getting to the top was not easy. There was an easier way that skirted around the more flat parts of the mountain, but the four of us were feeling adventurous that day. We decided to try for the steep part. The funny thing about climbing a steep rock face is that when you are clmbing, you exert a lot of effort. And after climbing for five minutes you get tired, and look up, and see still so much ahead of you. But then you look down, and (for me at least), it is ALWAYS surprising how far you make it in so little time. I climbed quickly, looked back, and while I still had a ways to go, the other three already looked like ants far below.
So climbing rocks that are perched at 45 degrees from flat ground, it's best to be on all fours. Not on your hands and knees (a giant gash on my knee shows why not), but using your hands for balance, and your feet to keep pushing you up. It's actually kind of fun. You feel like a monkey running up a steep cliff.
But enough games and monkey business, we finally made it to the top. And by now, night had fallen. In fact the last 10 min or so of climbing was in the dark. And since we were clamboring up this giant rock, our hands were too tied up to grab head lamps. Oh well, it makes the climb all the more exciting. You just have to pray that your footing is secure.
So we arrived at the ruins. Plain, with some graffiti, we weren't there for aesthetic value. What amazed me aesthetically is when I turned around from facing the ruins where we were camping. What lay at my feet was a vast forest of lights. Bangalore, in all it's glory. Unlike New York, which is on a relatively small space and grew up towards the sky, Bangalore is located on the Mysore Plateau and has space to grow. Even now, Bangalore is expanding out wards. There are very few 10+ story buildings, but instead, like a giant amoeba, Bangalore had spread out in front of us on this pleateau. You could almost touch it. The fortunate thing about seeing Bangalore from where we were was that you could not hear it. Thankfully it was silent except for the howling of wind on that rock.
As is standard in camping, the first thing we did was search for firewood. It was begining to get chilly. We made two fires, one inside the ruins and one outside. Both were... well, not the best to say the least. The one inside, while it was windy, produced so much smoke that you couldn't stand being inside the ruins without hacking up a lung. If a fire was going all night, there was a good chance we would have all died of asphyxiation.
But it was quite windy outside, which made the one we made outside hard to maintain. We had to move some small boulders and rocks to keep the fire protected from the wind. We talked, we jumped around, we explored a bit, and we ate Cup Noodles. After a while, we laid down and attempted to sleep. That, however, did not come easy. If you can believe it, it got so cold at night that it actually kept us from sleeping. Eventually, I think I got 2 hours of sleep or so before 6 am.
At 6:30am though, our day began anew. This time, we were going for the small forest located in the center of this rock. We climbed rock faces, and down vines. We hugged boulders as we inched our way across ledges that had just enough room for a foot. Looking down, with the wind around you was not always a good idea, as many drops were over 20 feet in depth. We leaped from boulder to boulder, branch to branch and without an planned route, made a trekking, rock climbing adventure on the rocks.
At one point I had gotten a little ahead in climbing and decided to round his one rock. Inching across quite a precarious cliff... I mean this cliff got my heart racing -I heard a strange sound. Like squeaking? Or a lot of people talking but really far away. I yelled for Paul to come hear what I was witnessing. He came over, and that's when it hit me and I understood what I was listening to. He looked at me and understood too.
Guano! That's spanish for Bats! Tons of bats! It sounded like there must have been over a hundred bats in a cave some distance away. Unfortuneately, we couldn't reach them from where we were. We were going have to descend from that cliff, and head in the general direction to try and find an entrance.
Clamboring down we reach a chamber of rocks right before the bat cave entrance. It was more of a small cathedral. We had to crawl under rocks to enter it, but once inside, it was magnificent. A giant rock created one wall, and in a dome shape went 30 feet into the air. Smoothly it curved and connected to another rock on the other side of this "cathedral". It was magnificent. But we couldn't be distracted from the task at hand. The sound of the pats was growing.
We found a narrow passage that was acting as a sort of wind tunnel. How did we know we were heading towards the bats? Well this wind tunnel was blowing air from the bat cave towards us. So it smelled. Bad. Horrible. All the feces and urine of the bats were just sitting in that cave, and the fumes were blowing in our faces. We pressed on.
The passage got tighter. And steeper. But now, in the distance we could see the shadows of bats on the ground. They were talking and flying and doing whatever bats do. Then, the passage was too tight. As we got to this point, as if the bats knew of our presence, they grew in volume. The passage was like this. It got really steep, and a rock was lodged about 4 feet above the ground. So to arrive in the cave, one would have to slip under the rock, and between the two tight walls into this small tunnel. The bat cave lay just beyond that.
First Paul got down and tried to squeeze through. His hips wouldn't make it through. Being a little smaller, I tired next. I lay on my side, kicked away debris in front of me and began to slide down. I also had too much girth to slip through. We climbed ontop of the rock that was lodged above the ground and sought out a way to get down on that side. Since it was getting steep though, we would have had to jump 10-15 feet from the rock to hit the ground. And in such a small space the danger was greater than the benefit of seeing a bat cave.
Then Gowri spoke up. "I'll go." Excellent! We thought. Gowri, so you know, is a small girl. Weighing in at about 80-90 pounds, she just barely slipped through the crevice, through some mud and feces, and down into the bat cave. All we heard from our position were "Oh my gods!" and "You guys should see this."
She hurried back through the tunnel to tell us what she witnessed. She told us it would have been bad to enter because bats were just flying around, defacating and urinating all over the place. She wasn't under neath them, but she said if we went in, it would have been impossible to dodge it all. And we didn't have an umbrella. But more amazingly, she described how there must have been hundreds of bats just hanging from the cieling, all talking and squaking, and doing what bats do best. It really shook the stereotype that bats sleep during the day. The sound of them all at times was deafening.
It was a crazy experience. Too bad we didn't get to see them that day (the rest of us) but Paul and I want to make a point to go back and make an effort to really see the cave. It was crazy that we found it in the first place. From there we continued to climb around and have fun, but that was by far the most exciting part of the experience. We eventually made it to the temple at the top, where (as you can see from pictures) it was windy!
We also found some trees with definite leopard scratches on the tree. And from the position of the tree, it would be impossible that it was a bear. Only a leopard could have the agility to climb to that position.
Sorry for the rushed post, I am trying to get through responding to e-mails and phone calls, as well as writing this. However... there is more to come! Tonight, Paul, Gowri, Siri and I are heading to Pondicherry until next week. According to everyone ever Pondy is an amazing place. A place where everyone rides their bikes, where the atmosphere is calm, and it has beaches. I'm excited to relax on a beach with some friends for the next week. So hopefully I'll have some good stories for when I return.
However, on the blogs next episode: Hanchehalli, The Archimedes Rock, and Pondicherry!