After a 27 hour journey to reach Bangalore from Minnesota, we woke up at noon to 90 degree temperatures. My sister-in-law, Lori, treated us to a gourmet breakfast, a walk around the neighborhood and for dinner an authentic Indian meal serving us new delicacies such as naan, a white flour bread, lentil daal soup, coconut and mint chutneys (dips) with chicken and lamb kabobs and chapatti, a crispy, peppery flavored cracker. On our walk she introduced us to a popular India snacks called dosas, fermented crepes made from rice batter and black lentils. We then tried samosas, fried spiced-potato filled wontons.
Spices ooze from India everywhere. Each food is created with unique combinations of chilli powders, herbs, roots, curry and turmeric. The heat level of the food matched the climate outside. The typical buttermilk beverage that the natives down like coca-cola was something Steven and I couldn’t convince ourselves to try. We stayed close to our bottled water and found the chai tea to be our craving.
Smells are strong, stifling and suffocating. The more I look for words to explain, the more incomplete and failing is my description. All I know is I found myself often walking with my arm covering my nose.
Our biggest learning curve? The traffic. Walking across the street in a land of one billion people, several thousand cows and more-than-I-could-count ricksaws proved to be a challenge for this Minnesota-nice gal who already has issues with hesitation. Motorcycles fill any spaces left open making the traffic seem more like a water current than individual modes of transportation. It was typical to see families of three, four, even five people on one motorcycle.
This trip was the first time in my life that I have floated down a river in a bamboo boat big enough for six people that looked like a papason chair. We spent a day at Hogenakkal waterfalls drifting along with our guide in boats that are round because the shape makes it easier to navigate the circling current pattern of the water. The waterfalls were tame and refreshing, cooling us from the southern heat that reached around 110 degrees that day.
The adrenaline pumping part of the excursion was the near attack by wild monkeys roaming free around this natural Indian water-park. At one rest stop, one particularly determined monkey took interest in our bag of Ruffles potato chips. I stuffed the two chips I had in hand into my mouth to hide all evidence that I was related to the rest of the group. This “save-yourself’-first” mentality must run in the family as my brother threw the remaining bag of chips to Steven in an effort to escape. Catching the bag under his arm, Steven clapped his hands loudly and yelled to let the monkeys know the Ruffles were ours! Beware if you visit my brother, he will teach you true survival techniques…quickly!
The temples of India have a Disney World feel with large exhibits and bigger-than-life formations and statues. The rule is to walk barefoot or in socks throughout the caves and tunnels of the holy structures. One temple priest held out a brass jar of fire. We followed the lead of the natives in front of us, sliding our hands above the fire and then smoothing our hands over our heads as a symbol to remove negativity from our lives. There was a common religious theme to lay our burdens at the feet of God. Every culture endures struggles. Every culture needs someone bigger than themselves to understand.