Stepping up [Wed 16 Dec 2016]

The next few posts will be categorised as, ‘India’ and are a blatant tangent from the Marrakech – Atlas Etape in aid of Education for All theme of this site.

So. My audience of one, I apologise in advance.

1,000 steps should help one keep in shape during the ‘living to cycle another day’ attitude I have adopted in India.

(Either that, or it is a quote from the Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter Long Earth/Mars books that have made compulsive low-brow reading while on holiday.)

Like limbo dancers, I have set the bar low. However, to add a little to the challenge, a sleepless night with Lyulf of, ‘take to toilet, clean up, check temperature, medicate and encourage to rehydrate’, has left my far from peak condition somewhere in the foothills. ‘Your deity of choice’ knows how Lyulf must be feeling… But, as Peta and I intrepidly set forth towards the great ascent, I do somewhat hate myself for envying the fact he is reclining in bed being nursed by Ros.

The Auto-Rick machine-guns Peta and I to Chaumundi Hill. Treading carefully through families of monkeys we leave our driver, Shiva, in the shade, chatting to friends, with his feet up. And me? –  Contemplating a career change that involves shade.

I am tempted to mis-quote Marvin the Paranoid Android, ‘the first three hundred steps were the worst, the second three hundred were the worst too’, and etc., but, in fairness, it wasn’t too hard, just very hot.

Peta and I took regular water breaks to keep sweat levels at a peak. My light blue cricket shirt, a memento of Tendulkar and Dravid’s final game at Lords, soon had a dark blue sweat patch, amusingly in the shape of the sub-continent, at that rather flattering shelf men have where the ribs stop and the beer-belly juts out.

By the time we reached the temple, by way of a giant statue of Nandi and the pilgrims and busloads of children who are cheating no one but themselves by being driven up, I was drenched and, bar the flag, could have easily been mistaken for wearing a Sri-Lankan shirt.

For the genuine pilgrims who bend down to smudge two or more colours of powdered dye on the face of each and every step it must be back-breaking, with the cooling breeze at the top coming as a welcome relief.

For us, it offered a view of the racecourse and our next stop!

Swinging by the Green Hotel to grab Lyulf and Ros, we are off to the races and a seat in the not too grand stand. The view was fantastic and, the children, having cast their expert eyes over the paddock persuaded Ros to visit our favourite Anglo-Indian bookies. Ray Singh and the noble Sir Tinty relieved us of a couple of hundred and the horses trotted off towards the gates.

The safest bet of the day was that our flutter would be to no avail and so it transpired. The horses did their thing, people got excited and a lesson in the follies of gambling was administered.

Time to go to the zoo to meet some more monkeys.

The zoo in Mysore is, against expectations (which are based on my ignorance), excellent. From Tigers to Lions, India being the only country to have both; Elephants to Rhinos and many, many more, all the animals have been rescued. The large hospital complex nurses a lot of these creatures to health and fitness to be released, where appropriate, back into the wild.

Despite the cheetahs and chimpanzees, the majority of people, from orange robed monks and pilgrims to uniformed school parties, were equally enthralled by a bald man in a kilt and his blonde children – one of whom had to regularly sprint to the toilet during the, ‘hello, what’s your name?’ routine.

The kilt in particular caused much hilarity amongst the locals and, at one stage, Lyulf did a runner in an act of self-preservation as nigh on 100 giggling children advanced towards us pointing at my pleated skirts and chanting, ‘Gandhi, Gandhi’. Gandhi?! Really?! [interrobang] Frankly, the similarities stop with the hair and from thereon down it is more Gandthree!

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