Hard Core Karnataka: part 3

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Up and over the mountain I went, and a Flat plain took shape (or lack thereof) in front of me. Fortunately the road stayed fairly consistent, and as the sun set, the traffic lessened to the occasional car, a couple of motorbikes, and a truck here and there. I was able to make a consistent 80 km/hr, and so would reach Yaragatti in half an hour or so.
Poor farmers in carts were on the road as well, sometimes with sugarcane on the backs of their overloaded cow-driven vehicles, sometimes with bamboo, or straw. Most waved at the rare sight of an Enfield on the road.
As it turns out, this must have been a new road, as it was not marked on the map at all, and certainly did look as though it had been recently built. Perhaps it was a back road, a dirt track and was chosen for improvement by the powers that be, only to be left mostly finished and forgotten in the dust of Karnataka. The road eventually became more consistent, with few "diversions" in it, and so I was able to make good time to Yaragatti.

As I pulled into the town, I saw a typical Karnatakan farming/working town, with market stalls by the side of the road, and tractors hauling wagons full of crops. Asking a man as I pulled up about "hotel?" and making the sign for sleep, he said "Ah, lodging," and pointed up and to the left. "Lodging. . .Above." So around the corner I went past a row of dingy huts with dirty men working on all manner of machines, cars, motorcycles, farm implements. Welding without any eye protection at all, working with tools and petrol and grease and fire all at once. OSHA inspectors would have a heart attack here.

A row of shops and sign that read "Lodging upstairs," and so I parked Rocinante in the front to the stares of everyone and went up. The desk clerk did not really speak any english at all, but with the now familiar pantomiming, I asked how much for a single room. As is the custom, he showed me the room before telling me the price. The place was clean, and though my room was small, it had clean sheets, a tv, and a good fan. "125 rupees," my concierge offered. I countered with 80 in proper haggling style, and he informed me, "set price." He knew I was tired and going nowhere with no other lodging within 100 km, so I just agreed with another head gesture. I asked about parking, and he pointed down and used the word "below." So his right hand man and I set about the task of getting Rocinante down the 45 degree grade to the parking area on the underside of the building. Through an extremely narrow passageway with a ditch to one side we went, finally coming to rest by the row of garage doors below. I unlocked my bag and guitar, and going back up, noticed that the only shop that was open was a motorcycle parts shop, so made a mental note to come back down and get some gear oil for Rocinante and an air filter if they carried such.
With bags in the room, I proceeded down to the parts shop, where they had set up a small table chair and bench. "Come, sit," a balding man with glasses about 35 said to me. This was the man (one in every town or village) who spoke the most english, and as I sat down, a fat man, much younger brought us chai (tea) in small cups to drink, as seems to be the custom here for social events.
We talked for a couple of hours, filling in the language gaps with signs, explanation and pantomime, and made many jokes, children and other men filing up to have a shy look or a giggle at me from time to time. This was a hard-working town, one that we would call "blue collar" in the West, though there was no real "collar" going on here. Farmers and mechanics, and hard-working people who never saw tourists, especially westerners on Enfields. I told him of course about my work, moving, and fixing things, and he seemed to like the fact that I know of hard labor. He and I found that we shared the same opinion on hard work--that it is good for the soul as well as the body. These men also got a kick out of my name, and also shared the betel/tobacco mix together.
I did toy with the thought that I might stay a day more in Yaragatti, as I had made new friends there who wanted me to share stories and music, but I told them I would wait and see in the morning how I felt about that.
There are many ancient temples semi-near to the place and they are under-visited and off the Lonely Planet radar screen. It does make me somewhat glad that I chose not to get such a guide for India and to play it totally by ear, and on the wing. Otherwise I may have gotten caught in the backpacker circuit of sights and guesthouses from such guides, as so many others do. This is the real India, a place where people work hard and value family and community, and are open, not the packaged, westerner-jaded India of the tourist places.
After being video-ed for posterity on the man's ultra-modern cell phone, watching some indian video on same, I bid my farewells, did the obligatory handshaking all round, and headed off upstairs to shower off the road dirt (which, when I took off my glasses had created a sort of 'reverse racoon' effect around my eyes), and get some overdue sleep. I had come 260 hard kilometers in one day, which, as I find out is quite a long way on the highway system here.
Tomorrow was another day, and Hampi was still 300 km or more away, so I needed rest.

***aside to reader**** Pictures will be posted as I am able, I am on a dialup connection here only 31 kb/s, so when I get to a faster connection in a few days or so, I will post these pictures!
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