We walked out of Gokarna and came across several families of blacksmiths plying their trade at the side of the road. They pass down the trade through the generations, as is customary with trades in India. Watching their technique was fascinating. There was a very definite order to who did what in each family. Mum sat feeding the flames of a charcoal fire piled on the ground with a small hand pump, Dad squatted on the ground (hopefully not farting as he was positioned dangerously close to the flames) controlling the anvil side of things, and the kids stood beating the hot metal on the anvil with sledgehammers. The staccato rhythm they generated was spellbinding. When I say kids I mean kids – the ages ranged from about 8 years old upwards. There was no sexual discrimination here - both boys and girls had to do the back breaking work, equality in the workplace in full effect. There were rivers of sweat running down them. I think it could take off as a new health craze. Forget Pilates, Boxercise, or Spinning, have you heard of the new Karnataka Blacksmith Workout System ™? It’s awesome – works all the major muscle groups whilst pushing cardio to the max, you really feel the burn (in more ways than one).... Each blacksmith put his own markings on the farming implements created – a brand of sorts I suppose. With the amount of effort put into fashioning an axe head, I would expect them to go for a small fortune. I’m sure in reality they are sold for a pittance.
On our way home we stopped at our Canadian friend’s cafe for a coffee and a chat during which we were told that the best weed in India is grown at a hill station in Karnataka and the best mushrooms at a hill station in Tamil Nadu. There you go, you learn something new every day. We met Maneshwar further up the road who warned us that the police are about to start raids in the area for alcohol and drugs. Our German friend tells us that a couple of nights back a Russian rocked up to our local beach restaurant off his face accompanied by a dodgy looking Israeli “friend”. After creating a ruckus for a while, they booked a beach hut beside the restaurant for the night and passed out. Russian matey woke up the next day to find his “friend” had stolen all his belongings (money etc ). Being left in India with no passport, money or possessions would be harsh to say the least. He has since been politely asked to leave by the guys who run the restaurant/beach huts. As the incident was reported to the police, we think this may have prompted the checks. Anyway, we’re both currently teetotal so it shouldn’t effect us, but there are a few (read “most”) Western people we’ve met round these parts who it may effect heavily. The bush telegraph seems pretty good here though, and I’m sure all will be warned well in advance. I hope so for their sakes!