Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On The Road

Our trip to the Ellora & Ajanta Caves was quite a road trip. We hired a driver to take us, and we were lucky that he had a reasonably comfortable truck (which is to say, not a total wreck), and he was a safe driver. We had about a 5 hour drive to our hotel, and then another 2 hours to the Ajanta Caves... I was in the "way back", looking out the back window at all the glorious sights of rural India. A 5-hour drive isn't usually my idea of fun, but here in India it's all just so beautiful and interesting that the time passes rather quickly. I'm not sure my pals in the car would agree, but I was pretty much happy as a clam.

Some of the things we saw from the car: sugar cane fields, brahma bulls with painted horns pulling carts piled high with sugar cane, a little boy stealing a piece of sugar cane off a carrier truck at a stop light, goats crossing the street, countless dogs, cotton fields & cotton processing factories, barren landscape, lush landscape, palm trees, camels, papaya trees, women with giant loads balanced on their heads, little girls learning to balance smaller loads on their smaller heads, white bulls with bright pink coloring on them (why?), markets, a Christian cemetary, a Muslim cemetary, mosques and temples, brightly colored & decorated "Goods Carrier" trucks... and so much more. From the back seat of the car, it's like watching live-action television.

Here are a few pictures that I snapped out the back window to share with you...
This picture shows some of the great variety of what you might find on an Indian highway: two-wheelers (almost always with AT LEAST two people on them), tractors, goods carriers... all just passing each other at will. The fluid dynamics of traffic here are fascinating, and at times frightening. A two-lane road becomes a three-lane road, becomes a one-way road with three lanes - and then quickly a three-lane road in the other direction. We did see a few crashed vehicles on the side of the road unfortunately, but it's no small miracle that we didn't see many more. It often feels a bit like a game of chicken, and generally you are relying on the assumption that the people coming right at you on the wrong side of the road share a will to live and will take any necessary precautions to stay alive. It's quite an experience!

One of my favorite things about India.... the fabulous, glorious, and amazing Goods Carrier trucks. These are the truckers of India, transporting goods across and around the country. For reasons that I do not know, they are almost all beautifully painted and decorated. They have words, pictures, flags, symbols, animals, religious figures... all sorts of things beautifully painted on them, in the brightest of colors. There are all sorts of sparkly metallic things dangling from the side view mirrors and draped across the grill... it's truly delightful. I took a ton of pictures, but none of them really capture the glory. I've got a day-long road trip on my way to the airport tomorrow though, and I remain hopeful that I might still get a good picture!

Another one of my favorite things about India: the cows!! Pune is sadly lacking in cow presence, and I find this to be a major shortcoming. On the road I was practically peeing my pants with delight to see all the BEAUTIFUL cows that we passed. Cows pulling carts on the road, cows resting the in the shade, cows at work in the field... Cows are always beautiful to me, but I must say that India has the most beautiful cows I've ever seen. Someday I will learn Hindi and take a special cow-sight-seeing trip through rural India... taking photos, petting their lovely coats, and gazing into their cow eyes!

These fellas spotted a car full foreign ladies and couldn't contain themselves. They were driving behind us, waving and smiling... it was all good fun. I love this picture! From my vantage point in the way back, I saw so many people driving on their "two-wheelers." Very often you see whole families - the man driving, the women sitting side saddle (often holding an infant), and the small children standing on the foot board up front. No helmets in sight! It's quite terrifying from a safety angle, but very sweet otherwise. I also noticed many handsome, modern western-dressed fellows wearing sunglasses and driving nice motorcycles - who very often had their bindi marking on their brow. A lovely blend of modernity, machismo, tradition, and religion.

See how fun a road trip can be??

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