On the sacred hill

I’ve been back in India for 2 full days so far. I’ve quickly been reminded why  I love it so much. Why it’s so frustrating and why there’s no other country like it. 

The first destination of this trip is a town called Junagadh. It’s the place where 10 years ago, during my first trip to the country things really turned around for me. I became friends with Hardik through a random encounter on the street. He changed my view of India, which at that stage was one that a lot of jaded tourists have. Up to that point I was being scammed and ripped off by everyone at every opportunity on every corner. Part of it was because I was visiting the kinds of places which specialise in those kinds of things, but, I didn't understand this back then.

Hardik showed me a different India. A country where welcoming a guest is an honour and where friends don’t say please or thank you, because they are ready to do anything for you, whenever you need and there's no need for formal politeness. I fell in love with this country and it's kept drawing me back. 

On the first morning after my arrival, I decided to go to Girnar hill. I don’t go into historical details about the sites I visit in these photo diaries. I want them to be more of a personal view of things. However, if you want to know more, just click the linked names and you’ll be taken to Wikipedia for more info. 

Since I’m not a Jain or a Hindu, to me Girnar hill is basically a beautiful, fascinating pilgrimage site that leaves you with a lot of pain. To reach the final temple Dattatreya Paduka there are 9,999 steps, some ridiculously steep. It is by no means an extreme challenge, but for someone not into hiking, i.e. – me, it’s not the ideal way of spending time. I've actually never made it all the way to the end and my legs are still hurting from getting to a spot a bit over half way.

Some of the people who do make it to the end are Jain nuns, like the one in the photo above. They start in the morning before sunrise and just keep going at it, at a very steady pace.

There are plenty of rest stops along the way. During public holidays or festivals the path gets particularly crowded. 

You would think that waking up early and putting oneself through physical pain is something that would make people less than jolly. I was definitely at my grumpiest, since I'm not a morning person, but the energy, the vibe of the pilgrims doesn't allow you to stay in a negative or even a neutral state.

Whether it's an elderly gentleman saying "Welcome to India" or a parent asking to pose for a photo with a child, it sort of snaps you out of whatever state of mind you mind be in. Of course, posing for a photo every five minutes can wear you out, but, I'm a photographer, so I haven't rejected anyone ... ever.

Some of the pilgrims aren't physically fit enough to make it to all the important spots along the trail so they get carried by two men in a contraption called a Dooli.

I didn't get the rate for getting carried in a Dooli but, these guys get 10 Indian Rupees (15 US Cents) per kg. This fellow said that his loads can weigh up to 60kg.  

Of course I had to fly the drone in this area. My big worry was about the crowds that could gather around. I set the drone up in places a little away from the main path most of the time. The few times that I was in people's view, I did attract a crowd, but, it was surprisingly manageable. The people, thankfully were there for a special reason, a religious one, not to gawk at a foreigner flying a drone.

I haven’t figured out the best way of flying the drone yet. There’s no way that people won’t react to it when it’s close. If you look closely at the faces of the people in the photo above, you can see that they are looking up or turning around. I’ll keep trying. 

A young family visiting a temple at one of the important spots along the Girnar pilgrimage route.

I don't have concrete plans of what I am going to do yet, but, there are ideas. Seems that I have an internet connection and a motorbike to travel on. What else can a boy want for Christmas? :) 

Hope all of you who celebrate have a great Christmas. More to come soon.