Wow, that was a long journey. Ended up being 34 hours door-to-door, and included deplaning onto the tarmac in Paris, being bussed to the terminal, getting ourselves to a different terminal for departure, then being put on a bus and brought to another spot on the tarmac where we boarded for Bangalore. Not enough docking spaces in Charles DeGaulle airport, I guess.
So at that point we’d already had a 4 hour flight to Atlanta, then had a 4 hour layover in a very cold room in the Air France lounge, then 8.5 hours to Paris and a bunch of bus rides at the airport. But that wasn’t the end of our journey by any means. I will never again whine about how long it takes to get to Europe!
Ten hour flight to Bangalore. Neither Anna nor I slept up until that leg of the trip, so we tried to crash out on that flight. With a bit of success. Still, planes just aren’t restful places. And you know what’s LESS restful? A car driving between Bangalore and Mysore on the Mysore “highway.”
Okay, so the highway is a divided four lane road. Driving is on the left. People totally ignore the lines on the road. They go fast, they go all over the road, and they tailgate like crazy. How this is orchestrated is that the drivers beep to let other drivers know where they are. So there’s someone ahead of you, swerving into and out of both lanes. What you do is get right up on their tail, pick the side you want to pass on, beep a bunch of times to let them know, then go for it. Unless the other driver then swerves into the lane you were going to go for, in which case you beep and move to the other lane and give it a try there. Once you’ve passed, they then get up on your tail and beep to let you know they’re going to pass *you.*
No stop signs or stop lights anywhere along the road. What do pop up are random, *huge* speed bumps. You’d definitely be airborne if you hit one at speed. Sprinkled in between the random single speed bumps are speed bumps that are a series of 10-12 small speed bumps all close together. Our driver clearly had driven the route many times, because he knew when to come screeching to an almost-stop just before hitting any of the myriad speed bumps.
It works somehow, this crazy, swerving driving and I suspect it’s because no one is focused on the rules of the road (like staying in one lane or passing on the right); instead, they are all just watching what everyone else is doing and focusing on avoiding being hit. No one assumes anyone else is going to drive sensibly, so everyone is ready for anything to happen. It’s weird, but it seems to work. And it doesn’t seem like anyone is angry about the disorder.
Things we passed on the road. Lots of street dogs, some goats, cows, oxen, people walking or bicycling on the highway (it was 2 AM and there are no streetlights, and they were ON the highway, not the side of the highway).
The driver asked me a question about half way through the drive and I couldn’t understand what he was asking, but based on info other yogis have shared with me, I suspected he was asking if I wanted to stop at Coffee Day for coffee or chai. There are stands along the highway where people can buy chai 24/7. They’re open shacks, pretty much, and they all seemed to have a customer or two hanging out in the middle of the night, sitting on plastic chairs and having tea. In Bangalore we passed a group of 5 or 6 men, all standing outside on the street, chatting. At 2 AM. The street dogs stood around at the periphery, enjoying some company.
The drive on the Mysore highway took three hours. Anna finally totally crashed and slept through most of it. Well, she did remark on the beeping and the disregard for rules of the road before she dropped off. Our driver brought us to the door of the bed and breakfast, where the owner had left a note directing us to our room. We got ourselves hooked up to the wireless connection, sent a few notes home, and figured we’d get some sleep.
Oh, but I made the error of mentioning on Facebook that I hadn’t seen any yogis yet! Sure enough, an hour or so later, as we slept despite the crowing roosters and hooting monkeys, I heard someone calling my name. Angie was under my window, saying she had a few minutes before class and did I want a bit of a tour? I left Anna sleeping and (reluctantly — I am TERRIFIED of motorbikes!) got on Angie’s motorbike. We tooled around and she showed me the important landmarks, then we stopped for a coconut at the coconut stand.
For the non-Ashtangis out there, here’s the deal: coconut water is a great source of electrolytes after a sweaty practice, so there are a few local entrepreneurs who’ve set up stands where they lop the tops off green coconuts and put a straw in so the yogis can have a post-practice treat. Obviously, the coconut stand has turned into a huge social area — enough so, in fact, that Sharath (head teacher at the Ashtanga shala) has taken to warning students that chit chatting after practice can be a distraction to serious study.
[I know this blog is being read by Ashtangis and “civilians” alike, so Ashtangis are going to hear some things they already know about, and those of you who don’t practice may hear things that don’t make a lick of sense. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, if you’re curious.]
As I write this, it’s 10:30 AM and Anna is still snoozing. I told her I’d wake her at 11:30. In the meantime, I took a walk to get the lay of the land a bit. What a crazy place! Just so busy — people on scooters, people walking, people riding in rickshaws (these tricycle kind of cab contraptions). Dogs everywhere, and the occasional cow. Lots of beeping and disregard for orderly road behavior.
The woman who runs Anokhi Garden — the place where we’re staying — said she’d help us think of some fun things that Anna might enjoy. Maybe we’ll do some drop-in yoga classes, and there are Ayurvedic massage opportunities galore. I understand there is a sub-culture of Ashtangis who crochet around here (odd and random as that seems!) and perhaps we’ll check that out. For Anna, not for me!
On today’s schedule: go register at the yoga shala (school) later this afternoon so I can practice tomorrow morning. I had to submit a registration four months ago and wait for it to be accepted, but now that I’m in town, I have to go pay and get assigned a time to come to the shala to do my practice. January and February are incredibly busy months here. The earliest practitioners start at 4:30, and I think people are practicing until noon or perhaps a bit later. I heard someone say there are 300 students here now.
But I have to get some money exchanged before I can go register. And of course there’s a business around currency exchange here in Mysore. I was going to exchange cash at the airport, but some of the other students told me you can get a better rate from a couple of people here in town. During my stroll, I went by Anu and Ganesh’s and asked about The fellow who exchanges currency. Ganesh explained what street he was on, then told me to “ask anyone” where he lives. Sure enough — I asked a fellow out washing his car where this fellow lives and he pointed me right to the house. As I got to the gate, his neighbor came out and told me he wouldn’t be back to the house until 11. I’m not accustomed to doing business this way, but it’s really quite charming. Very old school. So when Anna wakes up, we’ll walk back over there, exchange some cash, then have lunch at Anu’s (Indian buffet), and I will pay Anu’s husband Ganesh for the car ride from the airport, which he arranged for me via Facebook. People here seem to say “Pay me later” without a thought. Ganesh never even bothered to tell me where he is located here in town. I guess he figured I’d just ask on the street and people would tell me where to find him. He was right — everyone knows where he is.
I’ll bring my phone with me on my next excursion so I can get some pics.