The group gathered in the lobby early this day to head out to a place called Golconda Fort. We were expecting to see the ruins of an old fort that protected the people of India once upon a time. It was only when we had climbed to the top that we realized how extensive it was.
The fort was built in the 1600’s as a fortress to protect the people in the surrounding city. It was created to have 7 layers, all of which are connected by tunnels and pathways making it difficult for intruders to find their way around. Starting with a strong outside wall and impenetrable entrance door, the fort continues to have barracks for soldiers, an area for crops, a palace for the king, many temples for worship, housing for the temple dancers, and so on. The fort itself would hold approximately 4,000 soldiers at a time.
Other features of the fort were quite impressive. There is a 12K long tunnel that comes from a nearby palace to the fort which would allow the king and queen to escape. The fort has been created in such an acoustically sound way that a simple clap in a particular place could serve as an alarm to be heard through most of the fort. Interestingly enough, the only time that anyone got in, was when the guards were bribed. To this day, during the summer, there are rituals done where chickens and goats are sacrificed in the fort to provide protection. (This also explains the unusually large amount of flies in the area.)
The tour leaders paid a man to walk around and give us some information but the rest of our time there we were able to hike around. We took a hike up the stairs and into the temple on top. There we were greeted by a nice breeze that cooled us off from our climb. The view was also amazing! You could see for miles and take it the city, temples and people below.
As we were climbing down, we kept running into Indian people who wanted to take pictures with us. Though I had one person ask me, anyone in the group with blonde hair was asked more. We found it hilarious. That was until someone tried to pick pocket one of the dancers as they were taking the picture. At the bottom we joined some of the others in getting a snack. They had these delicious raspberry ice cream bars on a stick as well as delicious and masala flavored potato chips. Oh so good!
After returning to the hotel, eating lunch and regrouping, we were told we would be going to a bazaar. We were also cautioned to be extremely careful. The Charminar market we were going to was run mostly by Islamic people. They were celebrating Ramadan that day and would be fasting. We were told not to eat or drink during our time there as it could cause problems. The US had also sent out a world wide caution to travelers to be careful what we said or did during this time as to not provoke unkind feelings.
In the end, nothing except shopping happened. Kyle was the protector of Amber, Annie, and I as we wandered around. We all found some trinket for ourselves but mostly enjoyed looking around. The streets were so crowded it was hard to walk and any shopkeeper available was begging us to shop there.
While there, I finally gave into my love of Indian fashion and tried on a saree. I fell in love instantly with the purple and green fabrics and gold and silver sequined patterning. It was beautiful. So beautiful that I bought it. I look forward to wearing it at my next special occasion.
From the bazaar we were taken to a stake YSA activity at the LDS church building. We enjoyed leading the group through an exciting game of Two Lips in the Desert (modified to be culturally appropriate). We also taught them some American swing dance. My partner, Akira was a sweetheart who tried so hard to get the steps despite his two left feet.
After the activities, we showed the actual swing dance from our concert and then sat down to talk. Michelle told a story of where it all started for her, with her pioneer ancestors. She then bore her testimony and turned the time over to the group to share our beginning in the church and testimony. The spirit was strong as the members from the church’s newest stake shared their stories. It was touching to see how committed they are. Their resolve to do their best was like a fortress, not allowing any evil in to their midst. It makes me want to keep working harder and harder to achieve that too.
We were slowly ushered out to the bus to return to the hotel. As we were driving, our minds were able to relax from the day and think back on what had happened. We were all exhausted but excited that we were able to participate in so many exciting things.
*Thanks to Mark Philbrick for the photos as most of them are his.