Eventually I found a guest house, but before that...
The air weighed tropical and heavy. Nothing less than I had hoped for after several days of travel by train, rickshaws, and finally the crowded bus that, after too many hours of death defying maneuvers through mountainous jungle roads, brought me at last to Karwar, Karnataka, southern India.
A layer of clouds hung in the evening sky as I pushed my way down from the bus. With stiff muscles and a cumbersome backpack I awkwardly sidestepped the muddy puddles pocketing the road. Ochre swirls from the rain-soaked Indian earth rose to my feet, while a delicate drizzle of cloud and mist fell, making me feel as though the sea itself was falling from the sky. I smelled its saltiness, tasted its sweetness. The palm trees and flora, layer upon layer, ridge after ridge of green jungle tumbled down to where I stood. Having just left the thirsting desert landscape of Rajasthan, the jungle held the power to dissolve me, swallowed whole into the belly of a whale.
Trunks of trees rose out of sight into a veiled sky. Complicated knots of climbers and creepers spread across the bark of trees, tendrils stretching in every direction of providing space. Flowers grew like misplaced ornaments in lofts of each available crook. Leaf fronds bent and swayed, dripped--their glossy surfaces creating an unbroken wall of noisy silence. A monkey hollered in the distance where, just off the side of the road, I was drawn into the secret labyrinth of roots and leaves. It was a world within itself--a microcosm of existence, a universe smaller than my own, yet no less important. I was awed by the ferocity with which the jungle took in reclaiming itself; even in death there came from it yet another generation of life.
With another look to take it in I started for the village where I found women with large woven baskets of fish or crab carried on their heads. Life colliding with life; they milled around me, making their way home after a hard day of selling their labors on the side of the road --like fine statues, incomparable in beauty. They wore simple sarongs around their dark, almost black muscled bodies, held in place only by heavily beaded necklaces, leaving their powerful arms and back exposed. Strings of fragrant jasmine blossoms cascaded from their carefully plaited silken hair.
In the direction of the ocean the sun disappeared into the depths leaving only a Gauguin sky of orange, fuchsia, and purples to penetrate what was left of grey. The sound of waves and cawing ravens called me to the water. I would have liked to evaporate into the salty night, but I was in the main market and the bustling of locals packing up their wares reminded me that I would have to wait until morning to explore. I had, more importantly, to find a place to stay. There are rules to the jungle, but more importantly there are rules for women, especially those traveling alone in
* * * * * * * * *
Several weeks later, and further south along the Western shores of India, I experienced another sort of "hotel story" (click on postcard)....
Really, there are so many of them (one story leads to the next, to the next, to the next...)--I think I might have tapped into something here. But in the meantime, you can find more hotel stories here.