Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 7th 2011 - Finally stopped travelling.

At last I finally have time to write as I have been on the road since Friday the first of April which was co-incidentally my Dads birthday. The trip to Srirangapatna was replaced at the last minute by a weekend party spent at a nearby resort called Guhantara, a cave dwelling theme resort located about 32 kms south of Bangalore proper. After many hours of delays  we arrived at around midnight to find our "primative" room wa sjust that primative. Lying just off National Highway 209, along a very rough bullock track (all part of the themed experience the brochure tells us) lies the Guhantara, a cave dwelling theme resort based on an African design model the owners had seen in the later 20th century. In 2007 it received some awards for its architectural design but sadly since then the maintenance on the buildings and the grounds surrounding it has been left to chance. To build it they dug a big hole in the ground and then covered it all up with concrete and made it look like earth underground, true it was cooler than outside by why is it that some of the Indians I have met seem to accept mediocrity as special and the ordinary as unattainable? I know that for the $100USD per night we spent on the room I have stayed at far better for a whole lot cheaper and more importantly the staff were a whole lot more accommodating than the sullen crew there. They wandered around ignoring you most of the time, not saying hello or anything but despite this the Indian food there was really nice. Most visitors to the site which includes a swimming pool indoors and out, seem to only stay there for the day, buying packages that include food and entertainment for around 650 to 1000 INR per person per day
the indoor rock fall and water fall leading to the indoor pool below

above ground nothing to say its  here
a clue to what to expect
vino johns dance companions
that crazy bloke and his umbrella

two girls making their own bollywood movies
The NICC faculty with us and Vino John all proceeded to get slightly drunk  dancing with Cameroon girls and students in the indoor rain dance arena and then they later spent 4.5 hours in the pool effectively missing the final ICC match between India and Sri Lanka. Me – I went off in search of photo ops in the village nearby and had a good time there just soaking up the atmosphere, the villagers were very kind to me until I had to race back as a thunderstorm was fast approaching. It brought on the most amazing golden sky I have ever been in which made white balancing very had to say the least.

Stumbling back to Bangalore on Sunday afternoon Vino then tells me we are off to Chennai that night by sleeper bus – a new experience I think but I wasn’t prepared for the nightmare of buying a ticket in a huge crazy bus station called Majestic. Vino lead the way –he said he knew where he was going but we went in circles, dodging hundreds of huge buses all motoring in and out of the terminus, which was a real danger to life and limb as the drivers don’t care if they hit us. We squeezed through impossibly tight gaps between steel buses until we eventually wound up back where we started from to find the bus he actually wanted was across the road and down another alley way. After a bit of haggling we got seat tickets and then Vino changes buses again and gets us on board a sleeper bus. Glad to finally be on the way around mid-night and dog tired after the weekends exertions, I tried to stretch out in the very small upper cubicle we were in to sadly find that I didn’t fit the length of it, so it meant a very tight cramped sleep of sorts for the next seven hours all the way eastwards to be greeted by dawn and crowds of auto drivers all vying for our business in some back road on the outskirts of Chennai. Again after some extended haggling we jumped aboard an auto and headed into the still sleeping Chennai, motoring of sorts through roads littered with still sleeping workers and poor people, eventually winding up at the Marina Comfort Inn co-incidentally run by another good mate of Vino’s – what happened to the pre-planned stay at his brothers spare house I don’t know but I’m learning to somehow go with the flow with Vino Johns plans not matter how bizarre or frustrating they become. Oh bliss and joy – a loo with toilet paper and a working shower.
We stayed in this paradise for the three days meeting a wide variety of people and then re-visiting the nearby Mahabalipuram stone carving tourism site where Vino John had first taken me 10 years ago when I had first visited Chennai. One highlight of the visit was attending the launch of the IPL Chennai Super Kings and snapping photos of the Indian Captain MS Dhoni and the teams winning Coach Stephan Fleming – former NZ Cricket Captain. I later spent hours at the team’s home stadium in Anna helping Vino and his crew shooting the formal headshots of all the players.
I meet some really helpful people in Chennai who expressed their desire to change the way photography and photojournalism is taught there or rather the lack of it. I also got to meet Shaju John another photojournalist I knew there who is doing amazing work for NGO's.
a grave yard of Royal Enfields

owners put up these signs to stop fraudsters selling their land to others

odd sign on OMR a byway that is Chennai rival to Bangalores electric city

pumped bore water in sight of expensive condos

the assembled media at the IPL launch just to snap MS Dhoni

my homarge to Frank

in the frame again
Then again the travel plans changed and we were once on a bus heading back up to Bangalore.
Today after sleeping most of it I started shooting again for myself and look forward to my final two weeks in India.

martial arts training in a nearby park
they have started building next to our place

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