Long overdue. Journey to the Center of the Earrrrrrrrrrrth part II is finally here. You see packing up, bidding goodbye to your home of one year is a tall ask indeed. Less of a physical task and more of an emotional drain. The thought that all those relationships you had built painstakingly over the whole year, through numerous conversations, the occasional fights, make-up coffees, gossip sessions, hanging out, lounging over an assignment, and so on, would finally be coming to nothing. Well, not really nothing, but certainly not exactly the way it all used to be. But then again the reason why we collect all these memories is so that one fine day, when we sit back, listening to an opportune song like Yanni's Nostalgia, all those vivid images would come flashing by.
So, I'd left off last time with the bare mention that M got us into a bowl like boat at a steal. Well, later when we asked other groups of people, it turned out that we had gotten ourselves a deal at almost 25% of what the others paid. Or, let me put it this way, while other groups of 8 people went for the ride at Rs. 1000, we, a group of 4 went at barely Rs. 250. Put together! A steal? I'd rather call it a LOOT! So, fresh from a perfect deal that could scintillate any bargain-lovers instincts, we stepped into the boat and went rowing. It was around 9.30 in the morning and it was beginning to get sultry. You can just imagine how hot the day would probably get, right? So, our deal was to go in the boat till the mouth of the rapids, stop there for a few minutes for our photo op and get back. We started off, and a gentle breeze began to blow. People like me and random, who were used to the fishy smell (pun unintended) of Mumbai, thanks to the proximity to the sea, didn't really mind the weird smell that kept coming, but Ren and M got a bit peeved by the smell, and when I, typical water body ride style said that I wanted to put my hand down into the water as we rowed along, I got a resounding NO. I was told in no less words to keep my hands well on board, and judging by the tone, I reckon they might have well and truly thrown me overboard had I even so much as touched the water!
Our boatman was another sample. while we went rowing, he went on and on about how he was just an apprentice. How our negotiated deal was very less money, and how he desperately wanted some more. This, along with the lapping sounds of the choppy water, formed our continuous piped music in the background. But, we knew how to cut off background noise and enjoy what we had for what it was, and in the midst of our boatman's ramblings, we thrust our camera in his hands and made him take a picture of us, glares, caps, scarves et al. And then we also took turns taking the oar from the boatman, and posing with it. Although, we hoped to row for a while as well, that didn't quite happen. But at least we got to pose :)
Then we embarked on the next leg of our journey. We decided to head to the temple. Srisailam has one of the 12 Jyotirling temples, and is considered one of the key temples for devotees of Hinduism. Besides, this is one of the temples in south India, where people are allowed to touch the idol. Touching the idols is typically not allowed in temples in South India, and this is one exception. We reached the temple, left our footwear and headed to the temple complex. The heat was building up, and we looked up at the queue of devotees and we were stumped. Those from Mumbai would perhaps have seen the length of the lines at Siddhivinayak, one of Mumbai's most renowned temples, on a Tuesday. The queue here was almost of that length, and it went through tortuous alleys, staircases, caged enclosures and so on. Luckily, we spotted a place to pay for a temple-sponsored ticket and enter, and we were spared the pains of waiting in the long queue.
We had a good darshan, at the Shiv temple, the other allied shrines and it was time to leave. As it turns out, the heat was now too much. And we were literally stepping on a barbecue. The exit was on the side opposite to where we had left our shoes and we had to go round a semicircle, halfway round the temple to get to our shoes. And this is where we got our feet royally baked. I am sure that if we were indeed captured by cannibals, they would have had some really tasty heels and toes as starters! M remarked that this was perhaps a small punishment for taking a shortcut to see God. Couldn't agree more, M!With this, I'll conclude part II, leaving the best part of our trip for the last installment of Journey to the Center of the Earrrrrrth... Watch out for part III...