The vibration beneath my seat felt new and riveting. I pushed onto the accelerator as we zoomed through the most beautiful Indian countryside. The motorbike was sensitive to my touch yet still went over the cracks in the road without too much jumping. We slowed as we came up on the hill towards the temple of the Hindu goddess, Durga.
I didn’t know too much about her other than Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction is a reincarnate of Durga. When we finally reached the top we saw temples and shrines, first one dedicated to Hanuman, then others including one to Ganesha, my own personal favorite.
“These are my most important shoes,” I said as we passed Ganesh. It felt true at the time, good flip flops are hard to find and these were Vibrams, very comfortable and easy to slip in and out of.
By the time we reached the top we were unimpressed with the shrine built to Durga and found a pathway going further up. “I bet you there’s something up there, it’s like you have to really make the journey to get to it.” Said my travel partner.
I smiled, “Nothing can be achieved without sacrifice.” I replied as we started our ascent. At some point along the way we noticed a small man wearing nothing but an orange skirt beginning to guide us. It seemed so intuitive to continue to follow him we didn’t think twice about it.
Sweat poured down my face. It must be about high noon, I thought as we continued. My feet and hands have the habit of getting sweaty in general and more so with the sun hitting us so harshly. I started to slip going down the rock path.
“Shanti, shanti…slowly slowly.” He said.
Finally we arrived to the vista point. It was absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t believe how far up we’d climbed. I was feeling quite proud of myself when he said:
“Secret temple, down there,” pointing to a cluster of rocks. “Five minute walk, I take you.”
Five minutes…what a joke.
It felt like forever to get down there. Now begins my sacrifice, I thought. I struggled to keep up, first there was the matter of a super narrow passageway between huge rocks to get through, easy for my little sadhu friend and my ultra lean travel mate, not so much for me. I must say, yoga came in useful here as I contorted my body to get through. My shoes kept slipping against my wet feet. I finally took them off to get a better grip on the rocks with my bare feet. Then there was the tiny matter of the steep steps (if you can even call them that) and finally having to climb down a huge vertical stone without having a grip on anything.
I, somehow, with a little help and lots of encouragement, made it. When we reached the secret temple it was beautiful…the sun trickled in from the breaks in the stones providing the perfect amount of light.
The little sadhu man pulled out a bag as we drank from our water bottles. He sat us on stones facing him and a picture of Shiva. “This,” he opened his arms wide as to embrace the space, “this serpent temple.”
He then proceeded to bless us both, dotting our foreheads with red powder and holding our third eyes as he whispered prayers. He talked to us about how he had renounced the world for God when he was 20 years old. He had been living on this mountain ever since, 40 years. He further surprised us both by reading our palms.
“You will marry only once. Two children.” He said to me. “One boy, one girl.” He read my travel mate’s palm next.
Once we had recovered from our little descent we were going right back up. It was just as hard as getting down. Midway, my shoe broke. I laughed; I had been climbing up half the time barefoot anyway. Then I remembered the motorbike and how much I used my right foot whenever I was braking and all the temples we hadn’t yet seen. I began to worry about how I’d manage the rest of the days activities.
We passed the Ganesha temple and went inside. As I was meditating and praying to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, I laughed again as though I was having a dialogue with the elephant-headed Hindu diety himself. My shoes and my “need of the most important shoes” was the obstacle and now it is removed. Of course!
I continued the day barefoot, up more cliffs, up the grueling 600 steps to the Hanuman temple, on the motorbike, through the cow dung covered streets of Hampi and felt as though another obstacle had been overcome, and that this was just the beginning…