The land we now crossed was much drier. Sugar cane and elegant trees grew along the roadside and it seemed as if we were driving down corridors lined with enormous, softly swaying green feathers.
Nanjapur, Heegur, Somnahalli, all tiny colourful villages scattered along the way. The buses were bulging with two additional layers of people festooned along the outside. They clattered past in a cloud of dust and diesel fumes, leaving us agog and wondering how the people stay attached.
Forty miles south of Bangalore we came upon a most incredible cattle market. Hundreds and hundreds of animals and people, dust and stalls and noise, overflowed the land along the roadside, spilling out in places to block the way ahead. Some cattle had red ribbons tied to their horns and we wondered if those were the ones that had been sold. This huge market is held each week. Just as we thought the way ahead was clear, we topped a rise to find hundreds more animals spreading away beneath the trees. A young man on a motorbike came up alongside the car and overtook us. A moment later we passed him but he soon arrived right outside the open window and with a look, a big wide grin and a flick of his eyebrows he was off. He reappeared, riding with one hand then no hands at all, grinning furiously. We took his photo and ignored any further appearances. He left soon after weaving in and out of the traffic at a dangerous rate.
For the next fifteen minutes we passed people walking with their animals, some newly purchased, others not sold at all. There were a number of houses in the process of being built and outside many of them we noticed a figure like a scarecrow made of sticks. Perhaps this was to ensure the safety of the worksite or a tribute to the gods of housing.
The hotel in Bangalore was difficult to find. The traffic was absolutely stupefying and at one stage Thulasi, very apologetic, left us parked on a downhill slope on one of the one-way circular roads. We sat in the sweltering heat, hearts in our mouths as three lines of traffic hurtled down the hill and round the bend past where we were parked. The instructions he received were not very clear as we had to stop three more times before finally arriving.
We had a very late lunch before tackling the immediate problems. The most immediate was the fact that the lift was not working, we were three flights up and about half a mile from the front door and the heat was still intense. We later found that the service was appalling with much of the food listed on the menus non-existent and waiting time incredible. “So sorry, Sir, not available.” We were continuing to find that the presentation of the reception area of hotels looked efficient but whenever we asked for something or requested an advertised service, all disintegrated into chaos and misunderstanding. Just as we thought we were ‘getting the hang of it,' something else would go awry. But we did find that the room service was quite efficient and most importantly, the coffee was delicious.
Later that evening we took a hectic autorickshaw ride to the Holiday Inn for a memorable meal. This was a very luxurious, upmarket hotel and a member of an international chain, a real budget blower. However we enjoyed the spaciousness, the cool drinks and a wonderful meal.
I do go on about the traffic in India, but in Bangalore it was truly mind boggling. The noise was deafening and at one place where we stopped as directed by the traffic policeman, we counted fourteen vehicles across the road, all going in the same direction. Included were three buses, a couple of cars, autorickshaws, scooters and bikes. There appears to be more beggars in Bangalore than in other cities we have visited. They are relentless and keep pestering, touching and standing very, very close, fingers persistently tweaking our clothing and trying to touch our bags. Even my husband, the most patient of people, lost his temper and shouted at one group. We have pieces of card waved in our faces. They are tales of woe covered with official looking stamps, signatures from heads of important sounding places of learning, promising a rosy future for the bearer of the card if such and such an amount of money can be raised and please can we find it in our hearts to help. And the usual array of whining women push their undernourished and often deliberately maimed children, in our way. Instead of sympathy we feel anger. Anger that we are targeted and anger at the Indian government for doing nothing to help the people they are responsible for.