Night Walking in Mumbai
People are on the streets: talking, sipping tea, weaving in and out of stalls selling sugar cane, nuts and chocolate. The smell of spices new and strange and delicious fills the night as the heat of day slips, replaced by a clamour of incessant movement, like a blurred image. These are my first steps in India. Rickshaws weave between cars, cows and bicycles. A young girl, barefoot in a blue and gold sari, laughs at my colourless clothes. A young man with a manic smile unfurls a cobra at my feet. Noise is everywhere, but I am calm, breathing the air of Mumbai for the first time. My fingers curl around the warmth of its night. I am here. There is no future to rush towards.
Sunset Palolem Beach, Goa
We hop off barnacle-crusted rocks to the water’s edge, watching carefully the damp green algae, that we may crash and slip. Watching eagles circle among the pastel blues, reddening with the falling sun, nestling in step with the faint breeze from the sea. The soft wet sand holds the memory of our footprints, the sea coils around our toes, and even the waves hold their breath as they break upon the stones.
From the Hanuman temple, at the summit of Anjaneya hill, the ancient monuments of Hampi disappear into an endless desert of boulder fields and lush green plantations. In the distance a dusty path cuts through luminous green rice fields where young women, bent double at the hips with straight backs and wide legs, methodically pick the harvest one handful at a time. Nearby the almost 600year-old Virupashka Temple, rises from the earth like a pyramidical sand carving, ringing bells and celebration as Lakshmi – the temple elephant – returns from her river bath.
Suddenly a circle of school children surrounds us, smiling, waving and giggling with faltering “how do you dos?” They grab our hands and lead us down the steep path to the nearby Vittalla temple – a complex of ornate stone buildings centred around a giant rock chariot whose wheels, hundreds of years ago, unbelievably once turned. As we approach the temple they shout to their friends, gathering more children like pied pipers as we go, until we are utterly swept up in their wave of laughter and teasing and silliness. This is the magic of travelling, I think to myself. These moments, when our guard drops and the gulf of our different lives means less then the bridge of our shared experience.
Coffee Plantation Trek, Western Ghats
The sun’s light has arrived before its warmth. We are wrapped in blankets at the red and misty dawn, sipping tea and listening to birds wake the forest. A wild dog barks in the distance, marking its territory with sound, and is joined by the deep coughs of black face lunga monkeys echoing unseen in the high canopy above.
We trek through the morning dew, leaving the thick green beans and red flowers of the coffee plantation behind, heading deeper into the long grass of the jungle itself. Animal warnings proceed our path, screeching alarms followed by guttural warnings. At one point we surprise two spotted deer, they stop and watch us in silence as we hold our breath. Later we stop beside a cool flowing river, dipping our toes in the water as we picnic on daal, naan and spicy vegetable curry. A monkey troop surrounds us, I see them dipping their heads upstream to drink the cool water, I hear the creak of them bouncing on branches above me – trying to shake free delicious ripe gooseberries. Sunlight breaks through the leaves like crystal fingers. Everywhere life bubbles nature’s shapes. Crickets call in the distance and the hornbill is laughing.
ABOUT AARON MILLER
Aaron Millar is a freelance journalist specialising in travel. His work has been seen in the Guardian, Financial Times, Independent and more. He is also the travel editor of Positive News, the world’s leading positive newspaper, where authentic sustainable travel is promoted. Aaron writes an interesting blog called thebluedotperspective.com, and he is also an accomplished photographer.