From the Kolar Gold Fields to Madras
Tuesday, February 19th 1991
Hanging out in Kolar.
Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) is one of the major gold mines in India and is located in the Kolar district in Karnataka, close to the city of Bangalore. It was closed in 2003 due to reducing deposits and increasing costs. The mine is considered the world’s second deepest gold mine.
Got up at sunrise 6:30 AM and rode down gold mine road to a hill and sat and watched a hawk circle over our head for ten minutes, found all manner of rocks and collected samples, quartz, citrine. When we got back to our cycles we found Sabu’s bike had a front flat so we walked until we met some boys who told us of a bicycle pump available at a certain house, we were invited to have tea and chat and the boys would mend the bike. We sat and talked about Canada and India and where we had been already, We took a photo of the policeman’s house, wife, him and his kids and friends. The bicycle eventually returned repaired and we rode back to the bike shop in Oorgam and exchanged it for a better one.
Went home and got a familiar bite at a molecular level, we slept, we awoke to realize we had been bitten by local mosquitoes, we got up and made our way into Robertsonpet on our Hero Bicycles we bought food supplies and went and had the witches hat dosai. In the evening we had a fire with wood we bought at four rupees. Twenty people or so looked on, wondering what westinoids would want with wood. We cycled away and headed for the highest hill for at least 40 miles around. We cleared karma by jumping the fire and saying, singing, shouting things inside and outside of this realm of existence. The stars had that high desert brightness and depth, along with a crescent slice of the moon, crisp and real. On the way down we where shot at and we scrambled back to our house at Gold Mine Lodge.
Wednesday, February 20th 1991
Gold Mine Day.
So this how it went, we got up and Sabubu and I tangled and tumbled and had to rush off, hope there is chai along the way. Once at the mine office we had to wait until 10:30 for a tour of the Mysore Mine Shaft, no not really, it’s actually part of the Champion Reef with a maximum depth of twelve thousand feet on one single shaft. We went down to level thirty two, six thousand feet which is the maximum depth for civilians. I had hoped to get to level thirty-three or at six thousand six hundred and six feet, but noooo. The heat is somewhat suffocating and luminosity intense, the sense of isolation from the surface of the planet is very odd, you are in a solid space, a stone shaft but there is no sound except for the sound generated by the people around you, and a slight hiss of air being pumped or pushed. Six thousand feet is just over a mile, or the depth of the Grand Canyon, which takes just over three hours to reach the bottom, and six hours or more to get out. You can postpone the claustrophobia as long as you focus on where you are going and that you don’t anticipate there is open space just around the corner, and accept that to leave will take time. It had me in a too alert interested tourist borderline claustrophobic sticking close to the tour guide state. You get this real sense of tons of rock and dirt overhead, somehow your body senses it is a half mile from the surface and sunlight.
But fortunately, Sabu and I decided to find some gold samples, we slowly slid to the end of the line and started glancing at the eucalyptus beams, that supported the ceiling. The British had placed the beams there a hundred years earlier when they extracted all of the gold. When it got down to 4 grams per ton, they left. The Indians continue to extract gold as a hobby, they probably make more on the tours than on the gold.” Please, no collecting samples, everyone in the tour laughed. We where able to slip two tiny slivers of gold in ore samples back to the sunlight six thousand feet away. Afterwards we cycled to town and packed, returned the bikes and made our way to the train station in Bangorpet, once we arrived we went to a restaurant for food, we ate fast and ran.
We boarded the express air con for Madras then around Kurram, Sabubu realizes she has left her black ‘ all my stuff’ bag, passport, air ticket, money on the steps outside the restaurant. When does the express stop next, i’m asking the conductor, he learned of our plight and soon everyone was broadcasting positive mental attitude and praying for her. We had to sit there on the OM express for another half hour until the train stopped, we crossed the track and only had a milk train back that took twice as long. By the time we arrive in Bangorpet three hours had elapsed, Sabu ran ahead and in a moment a kicking laughing girl came down the road. We went back and had chai and thank and photograph the honest shop keeper. So, we then went back to Oorgam and attempted to refund our ticket for Madras. With some persuasion the Station Master provided us with a new ticket. Over chai we talked and thanked him again and proceeded to the Travelers Lodge were we had stayed five days earlier.
We were greeted by the tall deaf man, (you can see him in the background in the photo), who handed a clean pressed dark green towel I had left behind. Sabu and I both broke up laughing. Five days earlier, we were given a large room with our own toilet which was a tiled hole in the floor in one corner of the shower room. Sabu and I had been showering and my green towel we had been using to stand on, drifted off down the toilet, after fishing it out with a coat hanger, we hollered and howled at the grossness of this mystery shit towel, I decided it was best to abandon it. I rinsed it in shifts without touching it and left it. So when I saw that clean shit piss towel again I was stupefied and so extremely funny, we laughed without being able to let him in on the entire experience and to make it even better, the guy gives us the same room.
So we get the same room and settle in, I place the towel on a bench at the far end of the room, I have already abandoned it. We prepare to shower and I dump some water down the toilet and low – still clogged with turds rising out of the floor which sent Sabu and me scurrying, laughing and screaming. The turds of Bangorpet are at our heels.
Thursday, February 21st 1991 ( one month in India)
Anyway we got a new room and after a long, hot Dutch oven kind of a night with a mosquito chorus, because of the silence of a no electricity night, the fan finally came on at 3 AM.
We slept till seven and had to scramble off to Madras, stopped for last idly and Witch Hat dosai at the Meenaksha short but heartfelt goodbyes, with a manakum to the Bangorpet Station Master and a zip a dee doo da day wonderful feeling we’re going away. Madras Express Air Con Berth that much better. Rolling along, feeling fine, slow pace as I massage the woman, we’re laughing about Abagayanayam and the rhinestone cowboy. We had two guys in the room next to us that along with the morning expurgations, coughing, farting, snorting and sang Glenn Campbell classics. I am a lineman for the county sneeze fart wheeze. By the time I get to Pheonix you’ll be gargling, I started to sing. Galveston oh Galveston, I can hear your toilets flushin’. It only made them sing even more. Massage and laughter are such great medicine. Well Madras for us was a gawk and wank kind of place, Sabu being a tall skinny westinoid female has made it harrowing at times. You spot the men with the bouncing foot and knee, you think they are going to bounce right out of sight or onto Sabu. The high speed gropers can get all the way down your pants and be gone before you even utter a word. “Hey, that guy grabbed my pussy”. who, where is he? “ he grabbed your pussy?” . “Ya, inside my pants, he grabbed my bush”. Now that is fast, I wonder if he’s in some alley somewhere smelling his fingers. Kinda creepy weird stuff. Well Madras will test us, the place is crawling with beggars almost every ten feet, we found the foreign tourist office, something we never checked out before, and they primed us with stories of molested western women and challenged men. You have to remember for the most part India is not a crime pit, it’s a peaceful place, hectic but peaceful somewhat. So we booked a ticket for Bangnashwar Puri for Saturday we checked into the Hotel, in the evening we went out for a meal, on the way out Sabu got the biggest load ever dumped by a bird, luckily she was wearing her glasses and not the contacts. Rewind, start over, come out of the hotel one more time and wander off into the Madras evening, the high speed Tamil language is so difficult to follow, the energy is dense, we found a veg restaurant and had a Madras thali, afterwards Sabu rolls home tired and sick.
Friday February 22nd 1991
Bush give Saddam ultimatum and we did our bed-in with our peace initiative, love regains ground lost by destruction. Finally we went out to munch and shop for lungis. For twenty to thirty rupees you get a meter and a half of incredible printed cloth, we spend a lot of time in lungi shops looking at old stock trying to find unique or out of print patterns. In Madras of course the dominant pattern is madras, which brought me back to the late sixties when madras made a brief appearance in shirt prints. We went home to wash write sleep and dreamt about our escape from Madras.