India: A Little Bit Of Kambla In My Life

After the brightly lit palace of Mysore, the peaceful trekking in Ooty (peaceful if you don’t think about the four tiger attacks that took place over the previous week), the beautiful beaches of Goa and the surreal landscapes of Hampi, Loes and I got it in our heads that it was time to take in some traditional south Indian sports. Not just any sport, mind you. We are talking about Kambla. Whoever first decided it was a good idea to rile up two massive, muscular buffalo, tie them together and hold on for dear life as all three of them barrel down a water filled trackway with no way to stop except running into an awaiting crowd of spectators is a mad man. Wait, scratch that. I mean mad genius.

The journey to find Kambla wasn’t an easy one. You see, we didn’t really know where or when to go, we just knew we WANTED to go. So we asked around. And around. And around. After eight different answers from seven different people, we finally found a lead that sounded promising. So off we went, in a cramped bus for 90 minutes to some town we, nor the Lonely Planet we have come to rely on, had any information about. A quick bite to eat and another short 20 minute rickshaw ride later we rolled up to the Kambla track congratulating ourselves on a job well done. Opps. Premature congratulations (It doesn’t happen very often, I swear. I was just really excited!). Turns out the races were over and unless we wanted to watch some illegal cock fighting, it was time to keep moving. Thankfully, some random guy informs us of a different Kambla event, only another 90 minutes away, in another town we’ve never heard of. Hmm, sounds legit. So after some brief convincing of Loes, we were on our way, yet again. This time we had a much happier ending.

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(Above: And they’re off! They raced the buffalo in two different fashions. The first was with a person holding on to them with a rope as they ran down the trackway behind them. The second was on a “T” shaped sled that skimmed over the water)

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(Above: The buffalo sometimes got the better of their handlers. It would take up to a dozen men to control them again.)

The most notable event of the race was when we decided that, in order to take the most Facebook worthy of photos (which is oh so very important these days), we would stand at the finish line, directly straight in front of the charging buffalo. It was a solid idea until the buffalo didn’t stop and broke through the line. I stood there, watching in slow motion as everyone scattered and ran for cover. When the commotion ended, I looked around for Loes, who had scampered up onto the VIP stage with wide eyes and a heaving chest. She was a little excited and just a bit more jumpy than usual, but she was alright. A wise woman, she moved to the side for the next race. Me? I stood in the exact same spot I did for the previous race. Brave or stupid? I’m still not quiet sure.

Photo Gallery: A glimpse of South India

Here are just a few snapshots of southern India. Pictures, as usual (and especially when I take them), don’t do this place justice.

Oh, and I must say this. Of all the countries I’ve visited in this last year, the people in southern India have been the kindest and most helpful. Well done, India!

MYSORE, KARNATAKA, INDIA

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(Above: Mysore Palace, lit up at night. They light this palace up from 7pm to 8pm every Sunday, as well as on public holidays. I lucked out, as my train arrived at 6:45pm on a Sunday night. Yay, coincidences!)

OOTY, TAMIL NADU, INDIA

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(Above: Trekking in Ooty. Located in the high altitudes of the Western Ghats, Ooty was cold, real cold. I’m talking thermals, beanies and see your breath cold. Ok, so it’s not the big freeze, but considering I haven’t had a real winter in about 2 years it was a pretty big deal! Ooty is stunning, especially the steam train ride into the town. It’s a sea of shades of green with a crisp cold air that awakens your lungs.)

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(Above: Loes right after she wakes up in the morning. ZING!)

PALOLEM BEACH, GOA, INDIA

No pictures taken. Too busy swimming, sunning, and funning. I’m disappointed in myself that I wrote “sunning and funning”, but I won’t delete it. I have to teach myself a lesson.

HAMPI, KARNATAKA, INDIA

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(Above: This picture is completely natural, I swear.)

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(Above: Me being blessed by an elephant. I’m not a religious man, but when an elephant blesses you, you better just go with it.)

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(Above: Just me and my new friend.)

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(Above: The view across from our hotel (left), and the sweetest ride you’ll ever find (right). Sadly, no helmet was provided so I didn’t rent it. Safety first, kids!)

Hampi is a wonderous city, full of ruins and a landscape like I’ve never seen. Oh, and it’s full of Israelis. Never have I been to a place so full of one nationality. Want some falafal? Go to Hampi.

Udupi, Karnataka, India

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(Above: Some pretty lights and an even prettier elephant. Actually, this was a Hari Krishna nighty ritual. The day before they had a midnight festival. We arrived at 5:30am and the parade was still going on. Say what you will, but Indians know how to party.)

Last but not least, there is this.

No explanation required.