Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Planet Earth: In an Age of no civilization

It was a long way.We were two hours late and we were driving fast.The sun was mocking at us, trying to hold us static with its magical beauty even as we were speeding away from it.Only when we were rid of the sun did I realize that our destination must be enchanted, for the beautiful west side sun was just the first of many obstacles.

The apsaras in the sky began their hypnotic dances leading us into a world where space and time had no meaning.Known and nameless planets,shooting stars and billions of stars made me want to get out of the car, lie on my back in the middle of the desert and watch the sky till world's end.The performers had to contend with my craning my neck up the window, but the damsels were not to be outdone. Their next attempt did slow us down. Dozens of deer, hare and javelinas ran across our paths at regular intervals causing my friend to break often.They were relentless in their pursuit. I saw them racing across skies in herds(or constellations,in the language of the learned) with men on their tracks pelting stones.
 As I got out and looked about me at our campsite, I was consumed in unearthliness.It was extremely cold, dark,silent and eerie.The propane lanterns we brought along were stuck with a bunch of co-travelers who were yet to find their way. Since we had no idea when to expect them(no outer-world communication signals), we put up the tents using the light from our car headlights.After a very late dinner(or a very early breakfast?) we tried to catch some sleep,unsuccessfully before setting out to explore this strange land.
The sun caught up with us after a night of bitter cold. With daylight came a strange excitement. As we stepped out of the campsite at Big Bend National Park, we were engulfed in fantastic views that seemed to be right out of prehistoric photographs.We were in the middle of vast stretches of nothing for miles on every side. I learned that the area of this place is 800,000 acres which is three times the size of Delhi.

We first set out on the lost mine hiking trail in Chisos Basin, which would take us to an elevation of 4400 ft above sea level. The five mile trek did not seem to be half as much as we were constantly admiring the breath taking views of mountains and deserts and..cacti(in shades of purple and pink).The higher we went the mountains seemed mightier and the deserts vaster. The sun and the wind were in perfect harmony with each other. Sitting on the rocks at the top left me with the feeling that nothing more could be desired or derived from this trip.
How wrong I was...the river was yet to prove that it was mightier than the mountains...the sun was to show its prowess again. It never ceases to amaze me that a mere ball of fire could bring such surreal beauty to everything it's glow grazes. We traveled 100 km to witness this sublime testimonial from nature. We reached the Santa Elana Canyons just before sunset and wasted not time in getting on to the canyon trail which took us by the side of the Rio Grande river up the canyon. No words nor photographs can ever sing the glory of the scene.As the sun set behind the canyons, the rocks lining them changed hue from brown to an unbelievable orange.The memory of that spectacle can bring joy to anyone who thinks there is nothing worth living for in this life.

I was reveling in more such romantic thoughts as I watched the play of colors on the sky the next morning. We were driving back through the desert,vast nothingness on all sides with the skies touching the distant horizons.It gave me the impression of being on the flat portion of a huge hemisphere.I sat watching the eastern horizon slowly change colors from dark blue to a lighter blue with shades of pink and purple to golden yellow, and the gradation of colors moving gracefully across the sky announcing the arrival of the sun.Suddenly I understood why the early Greeks so easily imagined the Earth to be surrounded by a vast transparent sphere with the sun and the planets moving on its surface and why the complicated motions of the earth,the solar system and the galaxies were much more difficult to relate to. The first theory is so obvious!

I did not realize I was out of touch with reality for two days until I was shaken out of it. The border patrol was there and asked to look at our immigration documents. We certainly did not have them. They detained us for almost three hours and cleared all but me and another friend. They had problems verifying our information with nothing more than our names to go by.The lady officer actually told us that we were going to be "taken in" and may be deported. My heart dropped like a stone...another guy came running and said he did find something on us to clear us...whew!!! I certainly did not see mountain lions or bears in the trip as people promised me, but I certainly got nearer to getting arrested than I would ever want to be!Oh, well..we were back to the present. Big Bend already seemed like a setting from an age bygone.


Sur said...

Brilliant first post Lax, thoroughly enjoyed it, keep them coming! Loved the way you have described the sunsets and the stars!

And yes it is not about seeing wild animals, it is about adventure! Even if it comes in a totally different guise! :D

Priyank said...

One word to describe the post... awesome!! The narrative and pics almost took me there... until i was shaken out by 'post lunch bustle' in office!!!

Reminded me of a time when I was recently with an old friend at Bandra Beach, watching the beautiful sunsets, and wondering aloud about how the sunset would be as beautiful everyday, and how hopelessly stuck up in our lives we are to miss it on 364 out of 365 days....

Vacha said...

you have done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of a magical trip...I am sure I wouldn't be able to do this much justice to it even if I tried.

We want more posts (banging the mess vessels)!

rs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lakshmi said...

@sur: You made me start a blog, but lets see how regular I am about it ;)

@priyank: Ya, even I was thinking the same thing about our stuck up lives

@vacha: thank you [:D]

rs said...

it was wonderful reliving the trip from another "co-passenger's" perspective :P
enjoyed it thoroughly...keep writing!

Never mind!!! said...

an amazing experience captured in an amazing blog!!
it's really wonderful how everyday entities like the sun and stars could create so much magic :)