Hill country

Trip Start Jan 22, 2010
Trip End Feb 14, 2010

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I finally break my insomnia cycle, clocking a full eight hours before waking at 5:45. Emma stirs shortly after and we lay in the dark talking about her friends and school experiences. She falls asleep again about 7am, so I venture forth to explore.

Ranakpur is hill country. The bird songs, insect whirs and flora remind me of the Australian scrubland around Hanging Rock. Eucalyptus spread their sparse leaves over the dry grass. A few women and girls are on the road carrying water. Once I've passed them, I have the way to myself excepting the occasional motorbike flying by with any number of passengers aboard.

Peacocks far more nimble and shy than their brethren back home in Beacon Hill Park sail across the road from branches and chase off into the undergrowth. I come across a scattering of small shaggy white monkeys with black faces. The first few hang in trees, but a whole section of the stone wall along the road seems to be an extended family's front porch. When they walk on all fours, their long tails form a perfect semi circle to their heads. The small ones emit little squeaks before being clasped to their mother's bellies.

In a small village near the Jain temple, a local bus has pulled up for a rest break. Monkeys sit and watch the passengers. One has climbed on the bus's roof, and scampers away when it starts up.

The guidebook says the temple is only open from noon until 5pm, so I continue past the entrance to a bridge across the riverbed. I still haven't embraced the fact that this parched land can be wet and the banks swollen with water. Dry bed or no, the air is full of bird cries. Bright green parakeets flock from tree to tree. A fancy blue kingfisher flashes by.

On the way back to the hotel, I stop to look at the temple gates and get invited inside. The small temple is open, I'm told. You must remove leather goods before entering Jain temples. Emma's half-expected her shoes to be gone at some of the busier places. I am the sole tourist at this hour, so get to soak in the feeling of age and peace. There is a monk washing each of the marble buddhas that line the outer sanctum. We smile at one another but maintain silence.

Back out in the morning, the air is heating up. In the cities the fog kept the sun at bay until noonish. Here, it is hot and fine by 9am. Time to go wake Emma and have some breakfast.
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