heels on fire: 05/09/06

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Day 8

8th May 2006
Kulathur to Malappuram, 21km

(An account by Dan Inman who has joined the heels on fire team in Kerala for a couple of weeks)

Picture the scene: a spacious hotel room with twin beds, a television in the corner, a fan furiously spinning on the ceiling seemingly ready to detach itself and commit GBH, an air conditioning unit going nine to the dozen on the outer wall, an eclectic collection of running equipment strewn over the room, and me, sitting on my bed in a pair of shorts with the tube from my hydration pack stuck in my mouth like a drip. And it's nearly 7 o'clock in the evening! I'm not setting the scene in search of sympathy; I do it because this is the reality of life in pre-monsoon Kerala. According to some of the local people I have encountered already, it's not even hot yet! It may not be hot in terms of actual degrees Celsius, but someone has definitely stolen the wind leaving just an oppressive, almost eerie stillness. It’s humidity maximised and it's the conditions in which everyday life continues to rumble on, and in most cases without such luxuries as an air conditioning unit.
This may account for many of the bewildered looks that are a memory of my first day of running with the heels on fire collective. My favourite one being the motorcyclist staring in such bemusement that his visor snapped shut as if triggered by the thoughts coming from within the helmet. Moments like these raise a smile and are a welcome distraction from your increasingly heavy legs and the cravings to drink a reservoir. Just as when Dez stopped us to have our photo taken with a couple of young boys and girls. Later to be informed by Dez that the girls were the brave ones who had agreed to share the limelight with members of the opposite sex. There is a spirit of curiosity and fun here and I would love to be a fly on the wall to some of the discussions after we have dripped on by.
This was my first day of running with Pete and Rahul and I had been looking forward to it with cautious glee. Even the alarm call at 4.30am was bearable. This comment will doubtless be retracted after a couple more days! Having only flown in yesterday I was grateful for the couple of hours of kip I had managed to grab in a hammock before being rudely awoken by water poured over my head. Really, where are the manners nowadays?! We drove to Kulathur, selected a suitable starting point, fuelled up our camel packs and headed into the unknown. Three hours and 21 kilometres later we arrived in a now awake and bustling Malappuram. Personally I had no idea it was possible to sweat so much in the wee small hours of the morning, but it is! Along the way we were privileged to witness a magical and mystical scene of a mist smothered expanse of coconut trees, play a brief game of football with some kids, and sample a locally grown jackfruit.
It’s jackfruit season and Ismail, a sprightly 58-year old jackfruit trader happily treated us to one of his finest. A ripe jackfruit is massive and can weigh anything over 4 kgs. It is harvested by carrying it down the tall and often broad trees. It is carried down or lowered gently with a rope as to drop it would ruin the fruit. I'm sure there is a local age old, tried and tested harvesting technique. However, when you look up to a jackfruit hanging precariously off the tree it doesn't take a genius to acknowledge that it would be quite some feat of strength and agility. A decent jackfruit is relatively inexpensive to a Keralite where they can be found in abundance, but apparently if you head out of Kerala you could be in for a price shock.
I absolutely enjoyed my first day with the heels on fire brigade. After really having to push out the last couple of kilometres I am under no illusions about the magnitude of this physical challenge. The heat and humidity do things to your body, unpredictable things, even a reversal of what I was expecting. I also can't wait to get deeper into Kerala life and already know that there is a treat in store for tomorrow ( and it's not the 5am start!)

Stevie in a Planet called India

I've been in India just over one week now, although it feels like a whole lot longer since I left home to go to Heathrow airport to meet up with Rahul and Pete. Then, I didn't know what to expect and was rather relieved that they ended up on the same flight as me, as the angst of arriving in an unknown country, to a language and people I knew very little of, was massively daunting. That, mixed with tales of diarrhoea and general food and water (don't drink the water they say, easier said than done says I) issues all added up to quite a few concerns.
Since arriving, and I know it’s only been a week, I am starting to really like what little I have seen of India. It is very different to home. But of course there are similarities: people are still people. They have to work and generally they try and get on with it. Also big business reaches everywhere, you can find nearly any product here that you can at home (N. Ireland), except white pudding and Irish soda farls. You are still bombarded with advertising, except here, I don't always know what its for. The occasional encounters with a well-used men's urinal or engulfing odour of an open sewer have caught me off guard.
The drive to the first hotel was monumental, it rendered me exhausted, though I still managed to get up in 6 hours time to commence the day’s work, a desire to unearth the undiscovered, wins out over fatigue. The first day was a busy one and one were I really started to see India and the people. They were all curious and interested to know where I came from. A handshake is always offered. And although the language barrier can make me feel like a fool, a smile and a thumbs up never fails to convey a happy greeting, even from a distance.
The roads came as quite a surprise and although I was aware that they were busy, I had no idea that they were as unruly as they are. Buses in particular are like speeding death juggernauts hell bent on getting to where they are going at high velocity and on whichever side of the road is the most convenient. I don't think they are particularly worried about smashing me to bits and leaving my open mind on display in the dirt by the side of the But I dare say, if you ignore the murderous drivers, most people you come across are very nice.
In general the heat humidity particularly so down here in Kerala, has taken me by surprise. I've never sweated so much in my life. The salty fluid bleeds into my eyes and stings with a pain that makes me ask why God put a sensitive organ like the eye so close to the sweaty patch on my forehead?
The food has been a delight, I've always enjoyed a korma or something suitably mild, but the spice explosion that awaited me wasn't as troublesome as I had feared – in fact I'm really enjoying it. Even the 'beef fry’, which has become the stuff of lore on our merry jaunt has graced my pallet and danced across it like a little meat ballerina. The only food issue I have is curry for breakfast, as I'm just too set in my toast and cereal ways to start tucking into spicy breakfasts before my mouth has had a chance to adjust to the day.
All in all the trip is proving an eye opener, and a truly enjoyable one at that and I am looking forward to all that lies in wait.


Website Counter