There are many perks to being in India during the off-season, a.k.a. the blistering heat of summertime. I walked into some nicer, yet empty restaurants and mentioned the items on the menu looked quite expensive. This usually got me at least at 20% discount because they needed the business. However, the heat is inescapable and takes a toll on your body, whether you’re baking in the sun directly or lounging in an air-conditioned bus. Therefore, anytime we were in transit from one fantastic city to the next, I was fast asleep across two seats, bouncing around while unconscious with every pothole and corrugated stretch of road. I awoke, sweaty and groggy, when our bus stopped in the middle of rural India. We had reached our destination of Abhaneri where we were to have lunch and a tour of something called a step well. We all anticipated something akin to a circular well with some spiraling steps down to the water. Whoa, baby, were we wrong.
It looked like the world’s biggest Tetris game, a gaping square hole in the Earth where people used to descend to the water level and receive buckets of heavenly H20. The steps zig-zagged down meters and meters on three sides, and the noon sun revealed every nook without the hint of a shadow. I could barely stand the heat, but this step well was something that could overcome that discomfort.
Some of our tour passengers stood out on the diving boards, from which people used to plunge into the cool waters. I was nearly certain Lara Croft would soon swing out of the palatial-looking structures that made up the fourth side of the well. Everything about this place, aside from the bats, was magnificent.
We could only weather the weather for about an hour and then returned quickly past the tiny shopping area of town to bus’ AC. But had we not stopped on this tour in Podunk, India, we would have missed seeing this feat of incredible innovation and creativity.
That evening, we all eagerly jumped into the pool at our luxurious hotel in the middle of nowhere, and even though it was warmer than my normal bath water, it was relief to be surrounded by liquid and relax my buoyant muscles. And it only took a somewhat painless rickshaw one kilometer away to find a cheap place on the side of the road to eat (instead of the overpriced hotel restaurant). I, along with four other travelers, ate a simple plate of incredibly spicy vegetables and chapatti for a mere $0.50.
This day was Indian satisfaction. We saw the extent of India’s untold greatness: incredible rural constructions and fulfilling, cheap meals alongside real Indians. We had both the tour structure and the small discoveries of lone wandering. Perfection.