This is not about nature but about roads, perhaps the antithesis of nature. Each day I leave the teeming city of Bangalore to head out into the jungle with my guide for a day of nature. The trip begins with packing myself into the back of a little Tata car that my guide has hired. There are no airbags and the seat belts do not work. It is not air-conditioned because my guide tells me it is the cool season. That is, it is 80°F, so "not a problem".
We join the throng of cars, trucks and buses, all honking and jockeying for a lane position. There are no speed limits and although you run into an occasional lane marking, they are ignored. Into this mix, throw in thousands of motorcycles, many with entire families on them but usually just a couple. The man wears a helmet and seems intent, while the woman looks serene in her wondrously colored sari and sits side saddle on the back. Now for the coup de grace we add an absurd vehicle, the auto-rickshaw, a three wheeled contraption that holds a driver and whatever fits in the back- a passenger or two or three or four or five, merchandise, mattresses, even dead chickens. This auto-rickshaw is a two-stroke engine, in other words, a chain-saw with three wheels. Like a chain-saw it spews acrid blue oily smoke that makes ones throat raw and air stiff with oil and carbon.
The sun breaks through the clouds and turns all this exhaust into the hydrocarbon soup will call smog. It stings the eyes and closes the throat. Pedestrians, who are the least important piece of this traffic food-chain, stand along the sides of the road looking for the moment to run across. The moment they step into the roadway, every vehicle begins honking frantically resulting in about half of the crossers to back away and the half to fling themselves before the oncoming vehicles.
All this does not really stretch our incredulity until you add in cows. Lots of cows. Cows walking two abreast down the middle of the road, cows lying in the road, cows thinking about entering the road. It is all madness.
The jungle spots I have been going to are 1 to 2 hours of this horrific traffic away. Then of course I have to make the return during rush hour. On the way back today we went to turn onto the highway entrance ramp and it was blocked by a huge bale of hay. An old man on a bicycle came by and motioned to follow him on his bicycle. He drove ahead some fifty feet and motioned us up a highway ramp. Only halfway up did I realize we were going the wrong way and the exit ramp! Sure enough we accelerated and pulled onto the high only to see a sea of cars and trucks coming right at us, all honking. Our driver swerved across three lanes and jumped the curb to reach our correct direction of travel.
Half a mile went by and we were diverted back to the side we left and the driver slowed for the traffic cones and the "construction zone" signs. Pulling along side the construction area we saw who was building the highway- one man using a shovel, alone under the hot sun.
It is not just the streets- the side walks are all heaved and broken. The power flickers on and off rebooting computers and street lights and ATMs. It is life out of balance.