Mondo Weirdo

More tales of amazing festivals and strange nights around the world.

Published October 21, 1997 10:01AM (EDT)

Is that a skewer through your nose?

One of the most incredible festivals that I have ever seen is the
Hindu festival of Thaipusam. This festival
occurs once each year outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the Batu
Caves. Several thousand Hindus participate.

They sleep all night in a
temple, then, before dawn, they make their way to the river that runs by
the festival grounds. They put on loin cloths, then dip themselves in
the river. After leaving the river, they kneel before a priest and
inhale incense, which sends them into a trance. The priest will then
start piercing their skin with hooks and skewers. Many will have skewers
through their tongues and cheeks. Some will carry heavy baskets with
sharp points that will pierce the skin. Incredibly, they don't bleed
from all of this. Evidently, bleeding is a sign that the gods rejected
the sacrifice.

The participants, still in a trance, start dancing around
while the priests chant. They make their way down a path to the bottom
of a hill. There is a staircase with about 500 steps leading up the
hill. The participants climb the steps to the top. In a cave at the
top, the priests remove the hooks, skewers and baskets, then declare if
the sacrifice was a success. I can still hear the thousands of people
chanting and smell the strong incense.

-- Carl Bishop

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A strange and furry bedfellow

Sleeping in a treetop room in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, I was awakened by a scurry across my sleeping bag, although I was inside a mosquito net and had it tucked under my sleep mat. As I felt around tentatively over my bedding, "it" scurried a little out of reach.

Then, in sheer terror (and curiosity), I whispered to my traveling companion to wake up
and bring me the torch. After a fumble to get out of his bag and
net, he shone the torch on me. It was a furry creature like a very
small possum with bright shiny eyes, as startled as I was. He was
quick to get away when we pulled up the net. I never knew what it was
exactly -- although the rangers seemed to know, but I didn't catch the
local name for it.

-- Sharon Griffiths

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Concrete jungle cooker

On a trek through the Atlas Mountains of Morroco, the first stop was the village of Emoulas. Arrangements had been made for us to stay in the
home of the village headman, one of the finest homes in the village.
Construction was of concrete rather than the traditional mud. Our room
was furnished with carpets and cushions and had brightly painted walls.
There was no electricity, running water or screens on doors and windows,
but it was the only room so sumptuously appointed.

Although the concrete was meant as a luxury, it was also a very efficient heat insulator, and the
day's accumulated BTUs radiated from the floor, walls and ceiling
throughout the night. I had brought a down sleeping bag because we were going to
the mountains, right? I ended up joining my six companions on the roof -- where we found relief under one of those incredible skies filled with
satellites traversing the heavens over this village so very far removed from
our high-tech world.

-- Leonard Hunter

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Is there a sleeping compartment in this plane?

I spent most of the '80s tramping around the islands of southeast
Alaska. The only transportation with any speed were float planes.
Boats were also available but, with the size of Alaska, very slow in
getting you to your destination.

One fall I was flying back to camp in a wicked storm. The brush pilot
landed in a secluded bay that was sheltered from the wind. After
catching and frying a few fish, we spent the night in the float plane.
Not my best sleep ever, but interesting.

-- "quig"

By Salon Staff

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