eliot & drew bike through india for 3 months, trying to inconspicuously do some good in the world.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hell and Heaven, all in one day

So much can happen in one day. After a rough, hot and dusty exit out of central Mumbai (thanks Anjali Inn), we turned south to head towards Murud, on the Konkan coast, and eventually to Goa.

Let me (Eliot Spencer Murray) tell you, folks, I will often dilute the severity of my bad experiences for the sake of saving face and sustaining pleasantries, but by God, not today. I have absolutely no druthers about saying how hot and blankety-blank miserable I was for most of our 2nd day ride. Cycling along H-17 (good road), I was so hot that I felt like my skin was going to crinkle up and fall off like a burning marshmallow over the fire. Every hill was a battle, every valley a small but futile victory. Rarely have I been this hot while simultaneously exercising for so many miles at a time. I am from Oregon, after all. It was like having no lung power, leg power, stamina, energy, nothing, and constantly on the verge of collapse or barfing. Even a delicious fresh cut pineapple (thanks, Drew) did little to stave off the pain. In short, it totally, totally sucked.

Drew, native of south Texas (long live the mighty state), was having little difficulty, and was rather enjoying the furnace as we rode along. I now realize it was heat stroke, plain and simple. Suck-y. Also, having cotton pants on over my bike shorts, shoes and socks and a cotton shirt in 100 degree inland desert weather was, in fact stupid. My aim to not cause offense to the rural folks we rode past was in vain. We stood out so much, a little bike short action probably wouldn't make much difference to any conservative farmers (later I learned to not care, since the lack of cotton pants makes a MEGA difference).

Anyhow, we (read: I) limped like an injured duck to the town of Pen and agreed (read: I said I am going to die unless...) we should go to the coast by bus, as cycling more of the heat was a sure death race. Saints be praised, we did. Popping our bikes atop a dilapidated bus, we chunked down the road a piece to Alibad, where the coastal breeze met us once again and life resumed for my body. I could feel the heat dissipating and the panic level simmering down to normal operating levels. It was bad, man; I had that dreadful thought inside myself for just a moment - "Jesus, what have I done? I'm nearly dead on the 2nd day of cycling? Am I just a total wuss, or have I damned myself? Am I going to have to give up NOW?? And why the hell isn't Drew suffering like a rotisserie pig, like me??!"

I learned that, despite how bad things seem at the moment, if you persevere and aim for what you need, you'll probably get it. In addition, we both learned that Indian hospitality really does know no bounds, as evidenced by our most excellent and gracious experience with Mr Kunal and his family in Alibad. But that's for another post.

Mr. Kunal

there is no way to sum up everything that happened we met and stayed with mr.kunal. i think, for the sake of the blog, i'll try to sum things up quickly.  sadly, i cannot transmit to you everything that was said and felt during our evening with him and his beautiful family.  you'll just have to take my word when i say it marks a meeting with one of the finest souls i've met in this life.

(fyi, for visualization purposes, imagine ghandi and hemingway mixed together and you've pretty much got it)

so there we are, tired and hungry with only a dim hope that up ahead lies someplace, anyplace, where we can rest.  we pull into a 'holiday house" to ask for directions.  a deaf man waves at us and smiles, then motions to the big house. a smiling man in a blue shirt and simple sandals emerges and approaches us, smiling and waving.

we give him the standard speech. "hi, we're gringos. we're traveling india on bikes and we're looking for (insert poorly pronouced destination here)." we expect broken english and a vague sense of where the next town is. instead we get -

"kim beach is very close. but you may camp here on my land if you wish. here, here or over there - wherever. there are guest houses there you may use if you don't wish to camp. here is a double room. come inside. here is hot water. is this bathroom okay? the water is all filtered. i know how you westerners are about clean water. here is hot water for a bath. take one, it will work out all the knots. sit here, i'll get some tea."

we were stunned. he never insisted we stay, he only made sure we knew we were welcome too. "may we pay you for the room?" i asked. "why? just stay here, there is not trouble."

honestly, i was on the verge of tears.  bleary eyed, i wiped my face and sat down to tea and biscuits. we had tea while the sun set in kunal's backyard. he left us alone saying he had a few things to do. when we were settled, we worked on the bikes for a while and both took a long indian style bath - basically pouring water over yourself from a small bucket. it's wondefully refreshing, a good exercise (as mr. kunal later pointed out) and oddly luxurious. we adjusted the brake pads and trued all the wheels before deciding that we should go thank our hosts again.

we were welcomed into the main house with smiles and were given the full tour. kunal spent years working as a wireless operator for different oil companies and ammased enough money to buy a little land, build a house and plant many trees to eat off of.  his prayer room was beautifully tucked away and very cleanly swept. the kitchen was well used and smelt like fresh food. the whole place was spacious, comfortable and lived-in. we were seath and kunal and his lovely wife gave us rum and pepsi.  we drank two rounds with kunal and talked about so much ... amnog the two hours or more throughout which there was never a dull or uninspiring moment, a few bright points stick out -

"europeans think too highly of themselves. you have to buy yours bread over here, not there. you are over there, i am over here. you are low. i am high. in France you must always be less than the french. france is a terrible place."

"churches can be very good but you must be careful - they like to build buildings and wear white robes, clean robes only. sometimes they are really good people but often they want some money or they say "you better think like me!""

"being on the bottom, being poor, is a very good thing. way up high on the mountain are the officials, the rulers and the priests and things.  but from the bottom of the mountain you can see straight up their robes. so you know their asses are as dirty as yours."

"the world is a round place - what happens here, goes around to there."

"if you have stream that's flowing in one direction and you want to change it, you cannot cut it off, or just block it.  it will explode and run over. you have to turn it very slowlyvery gradually and then it will go right where you want wihout any problems. this is how indians deal with things. when we kicked the british out, there were anglo-indians left who only wanted to associate with each other. so we said - okay. and we pushed them out a little. next generation, we push them out a little further. now, there are none."

"in america, decades ago, it didn't matter what you did, only how much money you made. we make the same? we're on par. it doesn't matter if he is a drug dealer or pimp or anything - money made you equal.  now i think things are different. but here, we don't just move out the dealer. if you make it, maybe you sell it, or you use it. just like the stream - little bit at a time, we push them all over there.  we kick them out. if you do any part of it, we move you over there, we move you out - slowly."

"there is no other woman than my wife for me, romantically. there are other women, i know. but sex or something - doesnt cross my mind. a son grows up and he says "this is my mom. this is my new mom. this is my new dad." and he grows up with that and he sleeps with whoever. i think you guys, your generation is better, but many americans and europeans grow up and they don't klnow what marraige is. i love my wife, she is my the only one."

"it's like benches or signs that say "no blacks or dogs allowed." a kid, maybe 6 or 8 he doesn't know, doesn't care. his best friend is black. but he sees that sign and his friend sees that sign.  then about 10 or 11 he says, what is black? he is black, i am not black, like this. there are many examples. we shouldn't teach our children these things. but it's very important to know - something changes in the mind at ten or eleven. we stop just being us, our mind opens uand we start thinking and seeing other people differently. we should be careful what we teach children."

Panvil to Alibad

i'm lying in a bed with a warm breeze blowing through the windows. the above is me is wobbly but provides a nice breeze as well. incense is burning to keep away mosquitos. my belly is full of water and eggs - full in a word, maybe for the first time sense arriving here. my head is warm and soft from rum. my skin is clean from a hot shower, my memory overflowing from the day. thinking it over ...

we finally cleared the city today about 10am when a worker from the hotel last night guided us to the road to goa. he asked for a tip so eliot gave him rs20. we had gathered some fruit from the hotel in our bags so we stopped to eat not long after that. on the way we braved traffic and heat. the weather really took it's toll on eliot. personally, i felt great - the hot weather, the biking the fuit - it felt just like my childhood in san antonio. i was in high spirits but eliot was having rough go.

we made it to a fruit stand 15km from pen and 40km from alibad. eliot lay down by the side of the road and i visited some of the stalls. i bought a pineapple and ate the whole thing as my lunch. we biked to a nearby hotel. eliot had some soup and i drank water and read the paper. with eliot on the verge of heatstroke, we opted to take a bus from nearby pen to alibad.

we were told that for ten rupees we could store the bikes above the bus ... but that we had less than ten minutes to unpack and get them up there. this turned out to be more like 5 minutes. i hauled my bike up single-handedly with much screaming and grunting. eliot handed his up and i hauled it up and began strapping themdown. the locals started yelling "time to go" before i had the first bungy on. hastily wrapping them, i jumped down and ran into the bus, panting and bleeding. i cannot stress how hard it was to haul the bikes up in a rush nor how satisfying to be working so hard. the experience of having one thing to do that must be done right now is clarifying, simple and good. biking 45km in 95 degree heat qualifies too.

on the bus i napped with trepedation given the amount of jostling that occured. in alibad we saw townsfolk preparing for holi, the end of winter and festival of colors. because of the holiday there were no rooms in town. we asked around for a place to camp. at one stall there were a couple men a few women and a retarded girl. the puzzled over our hindi-english translation picture book then walked accorss the street into a darkened shop. an old woman came out of the shadows. she took a brief look at the book and, in perfectly clear english asked us if we wanted to camp, then kim beach up the road was the best place. we thanked her and she smiled waving us in the direction of the beach, then slid back into her shop. when she spoke all the men stopped and listened. she is perhaps the only person we've met who looked first and only at us and not our bikes. if there are goddesses, this is what they look like.

so there we are, on the road to some beach at sundown with the vague hope that we can camp somewhere ... maybe find a meal ... dead tired too. no food in me except some fruit, running low on water. starving, dehydrated, dirty and tired, we had no clue where we would sleep, what we could eat or where we were going.

and then we met Kunal ...

Pictures from Mr. Kunal

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

Pictures from Panvel to Alibad

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

From Ghost Runners

Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Night in Panvel and the World's your Oyster

Today marks the end of the first official day of cycling in India!

we began the day in ghotkopar near the airport and bicycled with our hotel friend aneel to a major intersection on the outskirts of town. this is a very VERY tame version of what we did today. not our video there, but we don't have wifi tonight and can't upload our videos yet.  look - i've biked in texas, i've biked in LA ... i have never in my life, at the very worst traffic conditions, biked in anything like this. i can't count the times i was nearly crushed, maimed, squished or run off the road. suprisingly, the whole thing worked really well. people just let you go wherever you want, you just have to afford them the same priveledge. while it seemed scary before, while it was happening i was remarkably calm. if you give yourself over the traffic and you're not in a hurry, it kind of moves you where you need to go without much effort on your part.

i don't have any pictures from today, and you wouldn't be impressed if i did. spent the day riding down the highway following buses and trucks and avoiding being runover. it was a pretty easy day of biking but the heat here is killer. eliot took it alot harder than i did, but both of us were suffering. we pulled it over about 2:30 and rested until 4 in a little town, under some trees near a cafe. we sipped lemonade and rested up until the sun moved a little then went down the road a ways to panvel. we're decided to splurge on a nice room at a good inn since the area is a little shady and we're both zapped. tomorrow is another day and should see us moving to the coast a bit (if we can). we may be out of touch, since there is no telling what accomodations or services will look like once we're away from a major highway. on the other hand, it should be much safer biking which is nice. we'll stay hydrated and pack it in again about 1-2 to avoid the worst of the heat.

all our love to you folks back home. expect a big push of updates sometime in the next week - we've got a backlog of half-articles we need to post. lots of travel tips and fun side adventures. alright, stay tuned!

Hell and Heaven, all in one day

So much can happen in one day. After a rough and hot first day out of Mumbai (followed by a posh yet expensive hotel), we turned south to head towards Murud, on the Konkan coast towards Goa. Let me (Eliot Spencer Murray) tell you, folks, I will often dilute the severity of my bad experiences for the sake of saving face and sustaining pleasantries, but by god, not today. I have absolutely no druthers about saying how hot and blankety blank miserable I was for most of our ride. Cycling along rural highway 17 (not a bad road), it was so hot, I was baking like a glazed Christmas ham, dying one minute at a time. Every hill was a battle, every valley a small but futile victory. Rarely have I been this hot and concurrently exercising for so many miles at a time in such heat. I'm from Oregon, after all. It was like running through a furnace and hauling 45 lbs behind you. No lung power, no leg power, no nothing, on the verge of barfing constantly, waiting for the pass-out curtain to fall. Not even the delicious taste of fresh fruit could recharge me. Ugh, man.

Mind you, Drew (native of south Texas, long live the mighty state) was having a blast getting cooked, as it reminded him of his youth in the summertime Tejas furnace. For Eliot, remembering my "balmy" 85 degree summers in the beautiful and flawless state of Oregon, I was knocking on death's door every ten minutes. Honestly, I don't care if I sound like a total ween, I was !?$&@-ing hot. Like murder hot. Killer hot. Really frankenfurter hot. At one point, we pulled over and I collapsed in a shady pile for an hour. It sucked. Sucky suck suck suck suckaroo. Suck a duck. Dry heaving, no breath, what the blank am I thinking hot. Made
all the more sucky by Drew telling me "Oh man, this sure is great, I love me this hot weather, reminds me of my youth, I feel like a million rupees, blah blah blah." No down-beat to him, of course, the guy is a champ, more power to him and blah blah blah rah rah. All's I'm saying is, every five minutes I want to ralph on myself. Heat stroke. Plain and simple. Really sucky. Nuff said. End.

Anyhow, we (read: I) limped to the town of Pen, where we (read: I, under the cover of blessed a/c) proposed we catch a bus to the coast where the weather may be cooler. Saints be praised, that is precisely what we did.

The bus station in Pen was amazing. First, I went to buy a ticket to Alibad (40 km away) and got directed by the team of ticket vendors
(every organization here seems to have a team to deal with stuff, yeah?) out to a dusty lot filled with huge crusty busses arriving and departing from here and there. I met two kind gents (thanks guys) who directed Drew and I to the Alibad bus, whereupon we (read: Drew, with some help from Eliot) hucked the bikes up to the top of the bus and scrambled our bags on board just as it was pulling away.

40 or so bumpalicious km later, we arrive in Alibag, a charming coast town on the verge of celebrating Holi (google: Holi festival India, pretty cool). It's SOOO much cooler (temp wise) and my poor poor poor body is SOOO very happy to be here, I want to kiss Ganesh for whacking aside another obstacle for us. Oh wait, I forgot! We saw our first elephant today, in some small town in the hills! It was huge. Also, some little monkeys. Amazing; in the US, we have deer and squirrels. In India, they have monkeys and elephants. Elephants! Enormous! Bodacious! Like living in a zoo, in many ways.

At this point, we pursue the daily task of finding a place to sleep. Being sensative to cost, we were less than exhuberant to jump at the nearest beach side dive, as our last couple of days we've unloaded a good amount of rupees on lodging. Lodging, the daily miracle or disaster. What will become of us tonight???

So: For a description of a true-to-form Marshall Ericson approved miracle, I will refer to Drew's post, which will hopefully sum up the top notch evening we had the distinct pleasure of experiencing. Amen. And happy Holi to all you readers!

-Eliot and Drew
Ghost Runners

Friday, February 26, 2010

Aneel and Co.

Stayed up last night working on the bikes and getting them ready for the exodus. About 1:45am there was a knock at the door. Aneel (one of our amazing hosts here at the hotel) saw we were still up, working hard and offered us a beer.

Aneel on the right speaking to Robert. They are either arguing about train protocol or arguing over what food or drink to bring us next.

Drinks in hand we hung out in the lobby with the staff drinking (us) and eating (them). We talked about how all the staff here are Christians, anjeel offered us a home to stay in in mangalore and we chatted about the bizarre rules of cricket. Aneel stated that he wished that he, like Americans, had money to spend on trips to see the world. I countered that while we may have more money in America, Indians have more heart. See for example today's earlier entries. This set anjeel and the staff into smiles of affirmation.

"work is very important here," he said,"and people may not have as much. The expectation is lower, but- as you say - the heart is bigger." We tipped a good rickshaw driver well and got smiles, honks and waves for a block after he let us out. We talked about our trip and interest in India and got maps, heartfelt congratulations and beer. I asked a guy today if someone Was lreparing pan and got two free pieces for me and Eliot and a complete history of the stuff. You give these guys an inch and they hand you back a foot. Is there crimeand poverty and sickness and complete injustice here? Uniquivically yes. But here also lies a working system of people who genuinely, truly have enormous hearts capable of service and laughter that breaks the scale.

Especially coming from Dubai, this place seemed shockingly poor, destitute and, yes, seriously dangerous. It is all of those things but much more too. Here lies the heart of the Buddha, the Vajra Sword, the Wisdom of Genesha, the Power of Allah, and the Spirit of Christ.

Mumbai, mi amor part II

After the helpful advice from the Indian call center we stumbled into we found our way to the India tourism office and a man who gave Shilpa a run for her money in terms of helpfulness - Rakesh.

Not only did he patiently wait for an hour, himouring our every request, but he gave us loads of maps and recommended hotels for our entire journey! Lots of advice on how to deal with folks, where to camp and how people will just take care of us.

Went to the grocer, saw the Gate, chatted with some merchants and shared our snacks (they looooove foreigners who love their food. apparently most don't? Schloobs.), ate again, got pan with a doctor of chemical engineering (more on this later!) and caught the train back at peak time - the pictures don't do this fact justice but think cattle car (or dokow train. Too soon?).

Pan Walla - more on this later.

A fine "Givson" guitar for sale.

Mumbai, mi amor

Well here we are. India. Two or more years ago Eliot and I started talkin about a trip and, through an intense year of planning and talking (especially the last four months) we're here where we said we were going. That alone is further than a lot of plans make it and I want to take the opportunity to pat myself and Eliot on our respective backs. So patted, let's talk about today.

Our tiny hotel room is where the tale begins. After two sink showers (the shower head is abysmmal nevermind that there is no shower area, just a head in the middle of the wall), we caught a rickshaw out to the train station. There is so much to say that I don't know how to sum it up ... I
Imagine a managerie on the move. There are elephants ( buses), maybe some rhinos (trucks), oxen (vans), tigers (taxis, cars), gazelles perhaps (rickshaws), rabbits (motorcycles), and squirrels (bicycles). There are also horses (horses) and cows (cows) but nevermind those fir the moment. So this big managerie just cruises down the road with no rules, no lanes (animals, remember?) just lumbering along. Big things go I. Big places, small things go in small places. If you see a gap and cut in front of everyone just to nearly collide head first into someone else, almost crush a few pedestrians by going up on a curb and just manage to slip into a space, well that's par for the course. I AM NOT EXAGERATING. we passed within inches of buses and taxis more than once. And not like "I could have reached out and touch the car" close. like "had my knee been barely poking out of the rickshaw I wouldn't have a leg" close.

On to the train station where we confidently purchased our tickets and were on our way ... In the complete opposite direction from our destination we soon found out. After much asking around and looking like total gringos we met the goddess of helpfulness, grace, patience and gringo-tolerance: Shilpa. This young Indian maid not only helped us buy tickets, she boarded the train with us and rode a few stops to make sure we were going the right way. Her reply to our over zealous thank you's? With a big smile: "it's in my nature ... I have no choice." genuinely beautiful.

Bless you, Shilpa.

Once we disembarked, we cruised around downtown Mumbai looking for the Indian tourism bureau that our hotel had recommended. We grabbed some food and went from one shop to the next trying to find this place. Eventuallyvwe ended up in travel call center and they put us right on track. As in America, when you need help with something it seems that eventually you'll end up talking to an Indian call center.

Location:Sheikh Zayed Rd,Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Panic and relief

As I said before, holy blankety-blank guacamole. Mumbai, you are truly a mega whopper slap to the face. Sitting on our beds a Anjali Inn, I'm reflecting on meeting our liason at the airport and stuffing our bikes in the trunk, the (dangerous?) car ride over, the street kids (lots) who grappled my face when I forgot to roll up the window, the extremely welcoming staff at the inn and most of all, the smell. Such an amazing smell, one I remember from my brief trip to Chennai in 2005: flowers, humid air, trash, fire, exhaust, perfume, delicious food and spices, all mixed together. Pretty wild.

Floored as I am by the dramatic and intense entry, I can already feel a sense of calm amid the chaos. Somehow people make it work here, and so can we. Note, I say that NOW, 25 minutes after arrival, naive and enchanted. Check with me tomorrow, when I'm missing the sparkling floors and ornate hotels of Dubai and my wallet is gone and I have diarhea. Holy guacamole. As the little kids in the street begged in my face and held the window open with all their might and asked for anything I had while tracing their hands across my nose and cheeks, I held my finger on the window 'roll up' button, reminding myself that I asked for this for many, many months prior to this date, and guess what, here we are. Love it.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

We're here.

We left Dubai about 13:45 and arrived in Mumbai 19:00 local. I don't know where to start. And I'm not just saying that as a popular turn of phrase.

30+ near traffic collisions, bungies holding the trunk door of our "taxi" buckling, a slew of child beggars all forcing their hands in the windows towards Eliot, Mosquitos the size of quarters all potentially carrying dengue or malaria or some such thing, nearly running over dozens - literally dozens - of women and children, pulling into a back alley and frantically moving our bikes and bags into a barely marked aluminum door reading Anjali Inn, complete with a strange hissing and clicking noise inside (?) the room ...

... and all this IN TEN MINUTES.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adios Dubai, hello Mumbai

Well, it's finally that time: we're kicking out from what has been the most opulent and sensational city in recent memory and bouncing across land and sea to what will surely be one of the most intense and varied landscapes in the world. Holy guacamole.

On the way to the check in counter, we passed a rather suspicious looking box, hastily taped and dingy, leaning up next to a column. Spider Sense buzzing, we alerted our gate check agent to the possible issue. "Oh, that's fairly normal, I'm sure they'll take care of it." Hmmm. Not to be paranoid or whatnot, but it seems rather dodgy for a cardboard box taped shut to be loitering in one of the largest terminals in the middle east. Moments later, we spoke with another gate agent who, with some alarm, alerted
security. It all depends on who you talk to. Thanks, Mum.

In veg news, BK Dubai features an acceptable "Bean Royale" burger that I, Eliot, just stuffed
my face with. Yummy? It gets the job done. Here's hoping the burrito makes it's way out here soon.

Splendid thanks to my folks for putting us up during our stay in the Emirates. Also many thanks to Vikram and his family for the excellent food and advice re: Incredible India!

Got a couple hours to kill in duty free - mission: power convertor, taachi station style. Change money. Oggle stewardesses.

Salud! Next post from Mumbai....

Location:Dubai Airport Terminal 3

The Road to Hafeet

We're driving through the desert on our way to Al Ain. Allow me to emphasize "desert." This is not a hot dry place with scrub brush. This is orange dunes, camels and a searing sun that bleaches everything. Trees and even grass along the roadside is imported, cultivated,maintained. Only the hardiest of plants grows wild here.

We stop at a road stop. The men are dark, their eyes are blood shot, pupils mere pinpricks. The toilet is a hole in the ground, the tile is stained and flies are everywhere. It's cool in the restroom, but there is humidity and stench. The comfortable life of Dubai city seems further away than the actual distance, a mere 100km.

Large walled communities and summer homes greet us off the highway, with big palms and bright flowers everywhere. I wonder how much work and water goes into keeping petunias blooming in this heat.

There are mosques everywhere along the road and at each wide spot on the highway. Some are open rooms with scant more than four walls. Others boast tall minarets, elaborate molding and expensive construction materials. I've wondered how many Muslims really keep their vow to pray five times daily. I'm beginning to believe that it's far more than I imagined. Just because religion takes a back seat in my country doesn't mean that true here. More evidence: even in the desert heat, the women and men are covered up. A group of guys walks a roundabout near one of the walled comminitites - dress shirts buttoned up, leather shoes and jeans. (we later pass the mosque at Abu Dhabi at sundown. My crumby image is below - google it to be impressed)

A barb wire fence seperates us from Oman. I know that perhaps 70 miles to the south, the border with Saudi Arabia looms. A short jaunt accross the sea brings one to Iraq or Iran. Civilization, it seems, is a fancy word for "fences."

On top of hafeet mountain, the tallest peak in the emirates, the sun is pouring down white, blinding light. To the north, there's a palace or hotel or something up here but no ones home it seems. I wish I could say it's silent or austere or meditative up here, but it isn't. There's a market selling snacks And soda, the ground is littered with bottle caps and ketchup packets, and the sounds of construction and traffic come up from the sprawl below from the highway on the mountainside. A few flies alighting on my moustache and a pair of sand colored birds are the only indications of nature.

The wing blows a welcome breeze. The heat is oppressive. So much so that I stand in the shade of a lampost to write some notes. A few cars drive up. Everyone on the mountaintop is silent.

To the west, a welcome view: the desert. A few rocky outcroppings frame dunes and the ironically water-rippled sandscape. "Arakis" comes to mind. There is a steady breeze coming from this quarter, a clear view and a sense of wilderness. With the taxis and truckstop to the east behind me, I almost feel like I'm in nature. The expanse is so vast that it merges seemlessly with the sky. Earth and wind, sky and sun are all the same. Only water is missing. And how it's missing ... This is true heat, true dryness. Lips cracked, ears tingling warm, I walk back towards what appears to be a broken gate.

It's the path to the top, a trail of dirt and scree. I shed a layer, tie on the lucky red bandana and start climbing. With every turn in the trail, a new desert vista. Haze blankets the ground below, obscuring the houses and date farms below. The parkong lot shrinks away everytime i glance west over my shoulder. Images of deserts flash through my memory - that scene from Bogus Journey / Star Trek, the exodus of the Jews, the aforementioned Dune, Lawrence of Arabia. The discomfort, the scale and scope is not communicable.

I find Eliot already at the top. Eliot puts "higher love" on the iPod and we rock out. The top of the highest peak in the emirates is littered with quartzite, pourous stone and shells that look and feel like concrete. I collect a few and we begin to head back down, to the fenced in balcony, the car ... and civilization.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another photo dump

Just some more stuff to drop here to get it off the camera:

Opening game of the Dubai Championship, men's singles.

Eliot at the park.

Lamcy Plaza Mall. Suprisingly Blue-collar. Check out that waterfall.