Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Random Memories

There's been too much going on recently, that's good, in a way. So when I got some leisure time, a single malt with Ice in my hand and a surprising urge to write, I had no topic to focus on! So, here are some of my random memories of my travel days gone by.

A decade back when I did a lot of exciting trips, there was no blogging and I never kept a real diary of events and anecdotes that I should have written down somewhere, even on a piece of paper. In some cases I did record things in writing and in some cases I simply forgot to write. One such event was my adventurous trip into the jungles of Honduras, in a retired American school bus turned public transport, sharing seats with entirely Spanish speaking rural Hondurans and their chickens on bumpy mountain roads. I was on my way to see the Mayan ruins of Copan Ruinas, a fine example of the Mayan civilization with one of the best recorded historical evidence of how the Mayans lived. This is now just a slowly fading memory. I knew a smattering of Spanish then, having listened to tape recorded manuals for learning Spanish, available freely at the Miami Central Library in Miami, Florida (where else?). That was enough to equip myself to travel to a country that spoke no English and to wander around the little villages so equipped! That's another story to write, I know.

Maybe I should re-look at those photographs and try and remember little things to put down in a blog. The archaeologist hidden in me says, go and dig - Unearth those pictures and tell your story, my mind urges. After I take another sip of this fine single malt whiskey, I tell myself but never manage to go on this "dig".

There was this time, eight years ago that I went into the mountains in Central Cyprus to visit the famous lace making town of Lefkara. I still have some lace items from there hanging around. No blogging then either but I do have a few things written down for me to remember. That's a visit that I had enjoyed as well, the archaeologist hidden in me had the most fun. Lefkara was actually a diversion. My main goal was to visit one of the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Eastern Mediterranean, a site more than 8,000 years old (no, there is no mistake in the zeroes following 8). This place is unique in the sense that other than the fact that Neolithic people lived as a well organized society, there is also direct evidence, perhaps for the first time, of humans and cats living together. Human and cat remains have been found in graves, side by side, indicated a "master and pet" relationship. I am not surprised though, human - animal domestic relationship in my opinion, perhaps stretches far back in time than that. but here was direct evidence. Earlier schools of thought put the cat as being domesticated and living with humans, as recorded in Egyptian history. That actually came much later that's much later than this settlement in Cyprus. The bones of the cat are intact and there is no evidence of the cat having been hunted and killed. People used to be buried with their "wealth" and items that they held close. Anyway, that's another story for another blog. I've shot loads of pictures, need to dig them out too.

Let's see. Where were we? Oh yeah, I'm still in the "archaeology mood" and I just remembered another trip done around the same period. That was an inadvertent trip, afforded to me due to a technical glitch in the Airplane that I was flying (as pilot). I got stranded in Ahmedabad, a city in the Western State of India for a couple of days. This was a ferry flight and no one was really inconvenienced, matter of fact this trip ranks among my most favorite ones and became a part of my cherished memory.

I had been somewhat familiar with the so-called Indus Valley civilization (which now is a misnomer since the Saraswathi river had hundreds more civilized settlement 4,500 years ago than the Indus Valley). So, some drive away from Ahmedabad I stumbled into, what I would call, a spectacular site of ruins of the ancient city of Lothal. It took some doing to get there since most taxi operators in Ahmedabad, sadly, were not even aware of this place. Lothal was a rich "inland" port, a unique place of commerce and civilization around 2400 B.C.E. I know this "Inland port" statement of mine may have evoked some curiosity, that's got to wait till I write about it or one can find out about that on the net of course. I shot loads of pictures here too and I promise that's going to be a part of another blog.

Maybe I should write about the time that I fell into the river accidentally and broke my finger in Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka while ogling at Elephant herds, grounding me and the plane for some time. I remember the 6 hour ride back to Colombo for medical attention, multiple fractures that too. That incident gave me the opportunity of going uphill to Kandy to see the Buddha's relic (Temple of the Tooth) and to wander around some parts of Sri Lanka, a country I have visited many times.

Or maybe I should write about the trip to Guatemala with the threat of banditos lurking around in the hills or maybe about that beautiful walk I took, around a crater lake (caused by a Meteor, eons ago) in Central Grenada surrounded by total silence and nutmeg trees, not necessarily in that order! The silence is only broken by sounds of birds in the trees and the crunching of nutmeg shells strewn on the ground crackling under my foot. That's another experience I can never forget. You'll find the tiny Island of Grenada in the West Indies, just north of Trinidad and Tobago - cricket fans would know this place.

I promise to write about all of the above. How about the fabulous years I spent in the Maldives flying around the beautiful Islands until the Tsunami hit us?....and the time we saw hundreds of Dolphins and I mean hundreds. So many Dolphins that actually caused a flotilla of sea taxis to halt in their position mid sea. These sea taxis are called Dhonies in Maldives and thay ply between the Airport Island to the capital city-Island of Male'. The taxi on both sides of the channel actually stopped and waited for the entire herd to pass, taking more than ten minutes. I can never forget that sight, of hundreds of Dolphins going by, some doing spectacular flips and leaps out of the water. I could actually have died of contentment and joy that filled me then, nothing more needed to live for, having seen what I considered quite divine. And I had seen them from so close that I could have reached out and touched one, standing near the sea wall in Male'. What else is there to see on this otherwise strange planet, when one has seen divinity? When I think of that scene, I still get goose bumps.

I didn't die, of course, still sitting here in my tenth floor apartment in Singapore, typing in between taking sips from my depleting glass. Strange things it does, to the mind, this fine single malt going smoothly down my throat. I can go on and on but that would be pointless. Maybe I should not promise to write these stories and maybe you should not take me too seriously and wait for me to write them! Who knows when that will happen? Cheers! Hic...