"A Fork In the Road." (again, unknown, but not me)
"Truckin' "(cuz it's really all about the Road). (The Infamous, Grateful Dead)
"On the Road, Again" (Willie Nelson)
"We're Just Brothers of the Road..." (Allman Brothers)
"The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can..." (The Lord of the Rings)
So. Travel. By Car. Or foot. But never by plane. You can't take a road trip by airplane (though perhaps the trip from the U.S.A to India qualifies, somewhat.) Sometimes you can plan one. Most of the time...road trips happen...in their own way. As a mother of two young children, I'd forgotten. No parent plans an endless journey with a three and six year old. Because. You. Know. You. Won't. Win. On the other hand, the best journeys undoubtedly begin "off the beaten path." And the races I've "won" have been few and far...anyway.
Last weekend we intended to spend a low-key weekend in Hassan with our Minnesota friends, the Vanderpools. Last minute, post-holiday, plans. A "3" hour drive (because 3=5, of course). Great...we can deal with that...not unexpected. The fluidity of time. The changeablity of plans. A million bathroom stops along the way. A Good Road is God smiling right-on down at you. 50 miles an hour feels like flying. In India, the course you chart rarely ends where you imagine.
After some discussion, we decided our first real trip out of Bangalore would be a close one. Close enough to keep our own car and driver. Hassan is south of Bangalore and the road down is honestly one of the better and safer ones. We arrived at the "Hoysala Village Resort" in time for lunch. We found the resort charming. Not fancy, but clean with a decent pool (though the Vanderpools experience of cats peeing on the roof and leaking on to their feet might bely that...just a bit.) Still, no one had to sleep in their clothes and we saw no apparent rodents...so for us (given our history with that amiable species, the Rat) that was a plus!
Our afternoon was spent close by exploring the ornately carved Halebid temple. Though our experience of celebrity is admittedly small, it didn't take us long to feel a bit like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, on holiday. I quickly lost count of pinched cheeks, grasping hands, and picture requests. We were, quite literally, stopped every couple of minutes by families, groups of young men and circling school children eager to practice shaking our hands. It was fun to watch their confusion when they asked where we were from...
Owen, as you might imagine, rather eats up all the attention. Grayce, more reticent, was incredibly disturbed by all the attention and spent much of the time shooting deadly lasers from her spectacles and perfecting her special International, welcoming glare.
Once back at the hotel we had apparently had t-o-o-o-o much sun and a few too many cocktails because we collectively agreed, as a multi-family group that it would be an excellent idea to take a "2 and a half hour drive" the following day to visit a temple our friend's driver indicated was a "must-see" and perhaps make Sunset on the coast... So innocent.
Saturday started well enough. A visit to the ancient Belur temple. A repeat of the previous day in terms of our fame. Many friendly faces, gorgeous icons and discreet peeks at Kama Sutra carvings ("hey, mom, what are those gods doing up there???? Gymnastics??) Impending doom??? Nah.
And then it began. The endless car ride into yonder sunset... 84 Kilometers (yes, friends, that is a mere 50 miles) in over 4 hours. Pot hole by Pot hole...some so deep we had to claw ourselves out (the kids are so good for that...those tiny, nimble hands). According to our friend's driver, the road was great the year before when he had taken his own family. Not so now. The upside is that there was road construction. Loosely translated to giant wood fires with steaming vats of black tar at the roadside and the manual pounding of rock to make pebble...
What? Why not turn back?? No, no fellow intrepid traveler! The road, once started on is symbolic of the journey. Whether or not you will run out of crackers in the middle of no where is not a consideration. Because just around the bend, things are SURE to get better. And there are holy temples to see. Who needs lunch??! (the kids were suspicious of our argument but Kids! This Is Good For YOU!!)
The really fun thing about a 50 mile/4 hour journey is the 5 hour return trip. Partly in the dark. The last hour done with a hysterical 6 year old. Priceless (mastercard has NOTHING on us!)
Sounds pretty horrible, doesn't it?? And it was...except it was also kind of fun. The perilous and never-ending journey included, not only washed out roads, enormous pot holes and a singular lack of adequate snacks but also stunning views in the Western Ghats mountains, tea and coffee plantations, and a view of village life and work that isn't possible from the "good" roads.
And believe me, a cold beer with friends tastes great after 9 hours in the car! The kids might have been catatonic (and a little pissed that they never got to swim in the hotel pool) but it made it so much easier to convince them to climb 650 steps to visit a Jain temple in Shravanabelagola early the next day...
The road is good. Carry on...
The Fischers, definitely in India.
P.S. click on the Picasaweb album links in various places above for many more photos of our journey!