It was really dark this morning when I sent off, so a torch was needed. Most mornings, I am up so early to leave the hotel that I have to wake the guards up who are usually asleep on the floor. It wasn’t long before the sun came up and I had walked out of the town and found myself in rural India. I was enjoying the walk and I felt lucky to walking in such landscapes. Soon I walked passed a small village, a farming village. I stopped and took some pictures. I was amazed by the small houses these people were living in.
As I was taking the photos, a young guy waved me over. I accepted and soon found myself inside a rural farming village. With no English, I managed to find out that these people were sugar cane farmers. I was invited to eat with them and drink chai, so I did. It made me think of all those travel programs I had watched on the TV, and made me wonder if all the filming was pre-planned. This one certainly wasn’t.
I tried to explain why I was here and showed the golden ticket that explained my mission, but no one could read. One women just said ‘no school’.
Sitting outside a hut, drinking tea, I could have sat there for hours and soaked up this totally new experience, but I realised I had a whole day of walking ahead of me, so I had to move on. For the first time, I almost resented the walking, thinking it was getting in the way of all these wonderful new experiences. Then I thought if I wasn’t walking and was travelling by bus or train, I would never have stumbled across such a place.
I was just about to get up and leave when the guy, who had first invited me into their village, pointed to an ox cart. There were three oxen – two in the front and one behind. He climbed up onto the cart and pointed for me to join him. I know I was supposed to be walking, but I couldn’t resist, so I jumped on board! We hit the road. I sat back and smiled. He controlled the beasts with clicking and blowing sounds to make them change direction. I had nearly 20 km to walk ahead of me and I think he was prepared to take me all the way.
After about 10 minutes some guy that was walking along the road overtook us. I knew then it was time to get off this cart and start walking again! I managed to get him to stop. I asked him to take a photo while I held the reins. I didn’t realise, but as I was posing for the photo, I was pulling the reins and the ox started to walk backwards. For a moment, I was a bit worried. He smiled and soon took control. Then he shook my hand and wanted nothing, but I gave him 300 rupees, (around £3.20). He took my money and smiled. This was probably more than he earns in a week.
After walking for sometime, nearly 4 hours, it was time to stop and doctor my feet. This is something that I need to do at least once, sometimes more, during the course of a walking day. Change my socks, let my feet breathe, change the plasters and apply talcum power, deodorant and Vaseline. I was sitting down going through my procedures and, as usual, was soon surround by people watching what can only be described as for them, a crazy occurrence. While this was going on, a man turned up that could speak English. I told him what I was doing and he explained my journey to the on looking crowd. He told me that he was a photographer for the local media. His name was also Satis; he told me that his name meant ‘satisfied’.
We exchanged numbers. He understood my mission and bought me water and chai. He told me that I should walk along the path, not the road, to Paithan, the next town, as it runs past the 2nd biggest dam in India – the Jayakwadi Dam. This was the first dam in India to supply power.
It is fed by the Godavari River so I was excited to be seeing the river again.
The Jayakwadi Dam one of the largest irrigation projects in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is a multipurpose project. The water is mainly used to irrigate agricultural land in the drought-prone Marathwada region of the state. It also provides water for drinking and industrial usage to nearby towns and villages and to the municipalities and industrial areas of Aurangabad and Jalna district. The surrounding area of the dam has a garden and a bird sanctuary.
It felt really good to be walking on a path and not a road, and after 13 km, I reached the dam. It was massive and the lake feeding it so vast it looked like the sea. I walked on over a bridge where I could see both the dam and the Godavari. In the distance, I saw people digging in the sand. They were looking for anything valuable to sell, or even coins. Everyone was so busy digging that they took no notice of me, and I enjoyed not be stared at.
I continued along and I could see there was an easy path down to the river, so I walked down and touched the water of the great Godavari. Here, too, people were busy working; this time they were panning in the river to find anything valuable.
When I looked into the river, I could see all sorts of things that the river had washed up, but the thing that amazed me the most were the stone statues. Broken faces from old temple statues just laying on the river bank or in the river.
I looked at these statues and as I touched them, I wondered where they had come from and how old they were. Just as I am admiring these works of art and history, a fight broke out on the river bank. Some young guy had panned up something valuable in the river. Everyone ran after him and he moved further into the river to get away from them. They all wanted what he had found. I just looked on with total amazement.
It made me think that surely these abandoned stone statues must be worth more than finding the odd coin. But these people would not dream of moving these items simply out of respect for their religion.
I needed to move on. I had a final look down the great river, and hoped I’d be able to see it again soon. Shortly after, I reached the town and found a hotel. After a full morning’s walking on top of getting up at 4.30am, I am not usually fit for much else, but Satis phoned. He wanted to meet up, so despite my tiredness, I agreed. He turned up at my hotel with his lovely daughter.
And just like the first Satis I met, the millionaire, this Satis wanted to take me sight-seeing. My feet were really not up to much but he convinced me. We walked through a busy market, avoiding the strolling cows, and soon we found ourselves at a huge temple. Shoes off and we went inside. As Satis is a photographer, he asked the people that are chanting and singing if it was ok for me to join them. It was, so I did.
The Eknath Maharaj Temple, or Shrine of Sant Eknath, is situated on the banks of the Godavari River in Paithan. It is an extremely popular place for visitors, but receives a huge number of devotees during Nath-Shashthi. This is the day on which Sant Eknath (one of the greatest saints of Maharashtra) left his body in River Godavari and took Jala samadhi (absolute dissolution in a live river) at Paithan.
You can find more information on the temples along the Godavari in this link – I think I have seen most of them on this trip!http://www.southreport.com/temples-at-godavari/
We walked outside and as the temple is situated on the banks of the river I get to see the Godavari again, this time at sunset.
We took a slow walk back to the hotel. I grabbed my a dinner – two samosas and I said goodbye to yet another great person (and his daughter). He jumped on his bike and waved goodbye. I hope we can stay in touch.