A short days riding for all… heading off at 10:30am as opposed to our usual wake up call of 6am – Fraser and Delli were relieved as they had a late night last night partying with the others. We ride through dense tiger reserves, huge wild elephant populations and friendly villagers. The Jungle hut is nestled in the Mudumallai tiger reserve and the scenery and wildlife are out of this world.
We set off on Day 6 after a wonderful sleep in a comfortable bed in our 5 star hotel. Bliss…
Within 5 minutes, our first drama of the day occurred when one of the riders, Al, hit a cow on the side of the road. In India, cows are sacred animals and also the livelihood of the locals. Killing a cow is considered as severe a killing a human being.
I arrived at the scene of the crime to see a large cow lying on it’s side in the middle of the road and our very nervous Al standing next to it. The locals had already surrounded him and us riders, preparing for the worst, stopped on the side of the road to support our fellow rider.
The cow was clearly going to die and the locals were clearly going to make sure that Al did not leave the scene without paying up for the cow either in money or blood. Simon, Enduro India’s organizer, managed to get Al in the ambulance without being lynched and then proceeded to negotiate with the owner of the cow, who was now wielding a machette to make sure he got paid.
Initially, the owner demanded 20000 Rupees payment for killing his cow. Simon offered him 7000 at which point the owner took his machette and slit the cow’s throat in front of him, causing the cow to convulse and shake as it died in the road. Simon, fearing for his life, counter offered 10000 Rupees, which the cow owner accepted.
Simon paid up and got the hell out of there! The moral of the story? If you kill a cow by accident in India, just keep on going, or face being killed by the locals… The irony is that Al is a dairy farmer!!! We all laughed hard the next day when Al won the ‘Dick Of The Day’ award.
The rest of our ride to the Jungle Hut was fun. Adele and I washed our clothes in a river on the side of the road with some locals. We beat our clothes on the rocks, scrubbed soap in with brush and rinsed out for that just washed mud effect. The locals thought we were nuts and chuckled at us… Mad foreigners!
We eventually left Karnataka and rode on into Tamil Nadu. Bill Gates once commented that Karnataka was the most impressive Indian state he had ever seen with probably the highest literacy rate in the world. A good demonstration of this was seeing a local walking out of a shack with no teeth, barefeet, wearing only loincloth clutching his Thermodynamics textbook!
As we hit Tamil Nadu, we rode through Bangipur nature reserve where we spotted monkeys, deer and could feel the watchful eyes of tigers, leopards and elephants on us. It was the one time I could safely say that no matter how much Delli needed to go the the loo, she somehow held on with no complaint for an extra hour for fear of wild creatures biting her ass.
We were greeted at our destination by a thunderous monsoon shower. I promptly passed out from exhaustion and slept for 5 hours while Adele played in the mud with the boys… There was an inordinate amount of mud and apparently Delli, Toby and Dave proceeded to turn into 5 year old mud wrestling champs much to the joy of 135 cheering bikers. There was mud in every orifice as they dragged 3 others into their fun and games. Joe, our Scottish American, tore off all his body armour and joined in wearing only his birthday suit. Upon this new intrusion, everyone ran out of the mud. The film crew caught the entire event on film and interviewed them afterwards. Later, it was revealed that the exact place they chose to wallow like piggies was also a cess pool! The medics gave the 3 a lecture about health and safety in India and doused them with iodine and betadine wash. The 3 grinned like naughty schoolkids as they were told off by their surrogate Indian “parents”.
Jungle Hut is located in the middle of the reserve and in the middle of the annual Tamil festival. The deity being honoured by the festival is Manomundrin – the fertility goddess. The locals come from everywhere and give praise to the goddess by dancing, chanting, drumming, holding pots of fire, piercing their tongues and cheeks with spears and chewing a plant that makes their teeth red and sends them into a trance.
Delli found herself in the MIDDLE of this procession (I’d expect nothing less from her) dancing with the holy men… She lost the plot and emerged an hour later with 3 people holding her hands, ash all over her body, high on whatever smoke was happening around her, stroking her head and inviting her into their homes for holy supper afterwards. There was a circus with tightrope-walking goats, dogs who climb ladders and all kinds of fun.
Dinner was tasty and after getting in a jeep and heading off to another resort to continue the party, we finally flopped into bed at around 2am.
Another day… Tomorrow is rest day. Can’t wait.