After three relaxing days in Goa we hit the road in a chauffeured car and head inland, away from the cooling sea breeze, east to the state of Karnataka. Our destination, Badami, is only a few hundred kilometres away but it takes 8 hours to get there. The road is crowded, in bad shape in some places, under construction in others and as if that doesn’t slow us down enough it is riddled with speed bumps.
Ganga, our driver, plays chicken adeptly. He passes on blind curves and hills, passes even when he can see another vehicle coming, and passes when there appears to be no where on the road for him to go. I can’t watch. Only once do we come close to having a head-on collision with a large transport truck. When I audibly gasp he laughs and reassures me that he’s an old hand.
We see one dead cow by the road, one minor fender-bender accident, and only a few roadside crosses, so maybe he’s right and I am overreacting.
Badami is a largish inland city that serves as a centre for the surrounding farms. Think Yorkton, Sask. Add chaos & bedlam and a few hundred thousand people. The streets teem with people, scooters and little taxis called “tuk-tuks”, three wheeled open-sided vehicles. Little shops and roadside markets bustle with commerce, mostly small hardware and household items and produce. Cows, goats, pigs and monkeys roam freely. As do many, many dogs. Most look undernourished and more than a few are maimed. It breaks my heart.
The garbage is astounding. Plastic and paper blow in the wind, plastic and glass bottles pile up every few feet. Food scraps too, but they are quickly taken care of by the cows, pigs and dogs. The monkeys are more discriminating; they try to steal fruit and veg from the vendors. Animal dung dots the road. I’ve already misstepped into a pile of cow dung.
Craig says the horn honking is defensive, meant to warn pedestrians and other drivers of an approaching vehicle. But it is so ceaseless that everyone is habituated and no one pays any attention whatsoever to the honker. Its the soundtrack of the city. That and the rattling noise the little two-stroke tuk-tuk engines make.
Badami was the regal capital of the Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD and is famous for its rock cut temples. It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged, red sandstone outcrop that surrounds Agastya lake. Carvings inside the temples depict various Hindu deities. On the morning we visit the site busloads of local villagers arrive and we find ourselves surrounded by sari clad women and their children.
We visit two other Chalukya temple ruins as well as a village called Aihole. The villagers seem overjoyed to see us and they all want their photos taken.
We walk the 2 km from our hotel on the outskirts of Badami into the town centre at dusk, initially wondering if it is safe. Should we be worried? We do kind of stick out. Its obvious we are not locals. Does this make us easy targets? We are not so naive as to think we are invincible. And yet, nothing untoward happens. Everyone is friendly and many greet us with “hello, where you from?”. Old women call out to us from their roadside stalls. Children follow us asking for school pens. We buy a package and give a few away, but end up fleeing as a crowd gathers and there are way more kids than pens.
The super, blue moon rises around 7 PM, just after dark. It is almost completely eclipsed when we first see it. It is a bit disappointing as we’d hoped for something large and bright, a moon that would illuminate the red rock hills that loom over the city. No such luck!