Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A new Curd-rice kayaker

..where there is neither curd-rice, nor kayaking. and our valiant protoganists are set upon by wild-animals and come through unscathed...

Frequent readers of this blog (all the two of you) would know that on occasion, I do enjoy a bit of kayaking and camping. All of my kayak-camping has happened on the Delaware river. It's not an accident. It's well-served by canoe outfitters, the water is not risky or high, paddle-in campsites are easily available and it's not too far.

S. had been kayaking once before, never been camping or canoeing. So, it was with a mixture of anticipation and 'I hope this dude knows what the hell is doing' that she agreed to the plan.

We got to the outfitter's only at 4pm, having decided to go camping at 12:30, and with a brief detour to get some frozen parathas and chutney for dinner. It was decided to do the 16 mile trip from the Bushkill access to the Delaware Water Gap. We put in at 5:00 pm.

It was a pleasant evening. The river was high and somewhat fast, so we didn't have to paddle too hard. The campsites came on pretty fast, in less than an hour. We pulled in to a camp site and setup camp in an hour or so, while it was still light. This is something of a record for me, thus far having setup a tent only after the sun had gone down completely. Somehow, I always seem to be late getting to the campsites :) We hauled the canoe up the somewhat steep bank just in case the river rose at night and took the canoe with it.

Made chai, Setup the tent, collected some wood, got a fire going and had dinner (parathas and coriander chutney) by 9. Turned in by 10. Something about the cold (it had turned much colder than the balmy 75, probably down to 50-45) that makes you want to curl up and go to sleep. Made sure what remained of our food (fruits) was in the canoe, which was across the fire from us.

I was woken up maybe around 1 am by S., with a whispered 'hey there's something out there'. Sure enough, there was the distinct sound of something rustling through the plastic cover in the canoe. Hmm. Discretion being the better part of valour, and cowardliness the better part of discretion and we decided not to challenge this interloper to our campsite. We couldn't quite make out what it was, and it didn't really sound like a big animal. So, we figured, if it wanted some fruits, hey, athithi devo bhava and all that sort of thing. The sounds stopped after a few minutes. Then, much later, around daybreak, there was the sound of deer walking around the campsite. We woke up in the morning to find deer hoofprints around the campsite, I could see where it had bedded down for the night. The deer had chewed up our apples. So much for breakfast.

Made some more tea/coffee (of course, I say made coffee/dinner, but it was the S. who took care of the cooking bit. I suppose there are some benefits to marriage :)). We were on the river in short order, rolling down the river.

Now, the section a few miles before the Smithfield Beach takeout is really annoying. The river is nice and wide, so, it runs slow. And the winds blow straight upstream. This makes for pretty slow going. On the other hand, it did give me some time to take some photos.

We took about an hour's break at Smithfield, to umm, perform ablutions. Then, on it was to the Water Gap. The Delaware Water Gap is this massive gap in the mountains through which the river travels. It's got some very nice steep cliffs. Very pretty. But to get to it, we had to go through some more wide, slow and wind-against-the-face type paddling, until we crossed the Shawnee Island. After that, things get pretty reasonable, though still slow. The boredom was telling on S. a bit at this point. Right around this time, I caught sight of a bald eagle. It was a nice specimen and the photo does not really do it justice.

As soon as you cross Shawnee, there are these bridge pillars (which always bring to my mind Rauros from middle earth, despite being absolutely nothing like that). Once you get to this point, the river picks up speed, and there are some riffles to give some excitement. It's a bit more fun in a kayak, since you get splashed, but, the canoe does keep you and yours dry :)

Before we knew it, we were at the takeout at the water gap, famished, bedraggled, but happy.

In all, an interesting trip, a good way to get S. involved in this whole outdoors business. Delaware river is rather good for people just trying out multi-day trips and canoe camping. The plus is that the river is friendly with hardly any rapids. The minus is the flip side of the same feature, the river is wide, and slow, and in stretches can get on people's nerves.

As it turned out, we did have curd-rice after all, but after we got home..

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bushi no Ichibun (Love and Honour)

This is the third movie in Yoji Yamada's series of samurai movies. The other two being Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade .

In Love and Honour, Shinnojo a young samurai, who is the official taster for the daimyo is blinded after eating poisoned food. This puts him at the threat of losing his stipend and driving him into penury. His family pressures his wife Kayo to try and convince a high official who she has a passing acquaintance with to intercede on his behalf. The movie deals with the repurcussions of that action.

The movie follows in the style and tone of the other two. The focus is on the couple and their relationship. Shinnojo, like the protoganists of the other two movies, is not terribly enamoured with the samurai lifestyle. He would like to open a school so that children of all castes, not just samurai can learn swordsmanship.

Even though the three movies have no story arc joining them, they are stylistically connected. They all follow lives of "ordinary" samurai, and focus on their relationships. They are not about pomp and ceremony, like say Ran, or Throne of Blood or swashbucklers like Yojimbo or Sanjuro. The heroes are undemonstrative anti-Mifunes and there are no scenery-chewing histrionics.

The movies are shot with great care and adhere to using authentic period clothing, utensils and activities. The director composes some shots like photographs. Just letting it linger for a few more moments than might be considered strictly necessary. There are scenes (like Iguchi Seibei eating breakfast before going out for the day) which are again, not really required for the story but really adds to the mood. The movies and the heroes project a feeling of quiet and calm. The music is pretty good and really goes along with the action.

I guess it is pretty obvious by now that I utterly enjoyed all the movies. I very highly recommend them.