I was riding my bike on a countryside paved road, those narrow ones that abound in rural France. On both sides, segments of groves and farms surrounded by cereal fields. The night before I had stayed on the side of a pond, the Poterie’s Etang, on the D109, in the municipality of Ecueillé, department 36 of Indre, adjusting to the noises of the night and the synchronized choir chanted by the frogs at sunset. At one point, on a plain-downhill surface, I enter in the middle of a forest thicket. My trailers emits a unique rhythmic tableting sound when pressing speed as if it were a moving train.
Suddenly I squeeze my brakes with my sweaty hands as a result, naturally, of the impulse and energy involved in moving a large machine such as a bike that pulls two trailers. The early morning was placid and sunny and I was feeling great on my pletoric muscles, hot blood, overflowing energy and open sight on the horizon with an amazing spatial perspective.
“What was that?”, I wondered as I slowly dismounted the bike. I thought I saw something bright in the corner of my right eye, somewhere in the distance from what could have been any ordinary farm entrance, one of the many that multiply along the way.
I’m standing in the middle of the deserted road, densely covered by a thick forest. To my left, what appeared to be an old abandoned building. At the end of the forest ahead, the sunlight bathed the soft undulations of the fields. There was a kind of morning mist that rose from the asphalt that warmed as the hours went by. I take a look back. I see the entrance to the estate about 50 meters away. I’m usually not too kin in stopping and back forward, except that something forces me to do it or something extraordinary catches my eye. I did it this time. Before I reached the entrance gate, which was completely open, I am witnessing clearly that the bright white thing that I saw in the corner of the right eye was actually a castle! A castle in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the French countryside. Before I decided to enter the property, I catched a sign indicating that the building is a temple of Hare Krishna?
My ability to collect and process information is innate and accelerated in these cases. Part of the temple is visible beyond a large empty courtyard, about 70 meters away. I got the feeling that if I enter the property, I will not have a dog that throws itself towards my neck. “These people are… religious”, I thought. I’m coming in very cautiously, down an unpaved path. On my right, part of the enclosed forest islet that was part of the landscape in this stretch. As I go any further, I can better see the castle and its surroundings. It strikes me to see the state of some level of decadence of this beautiful building. I see some people walking on the grand entrance’s stairs, most of them with a look of… I don’t know why it reminds me of those western films, in technicolor, whose protagonists seemed enlarged and thinned, as if they were walking on the surface of Mars sort of. I raise my hand in a greeting sign and at least three people dressed in Hindu robes and shaved heads approach me, crossing the yard, smiling, making me feel immediately comfortable. Most male wear like a hairtail from the center of their heads. I can’t say I’m clear about what’s going on because I’m not. Actually, nothing is what I would expect to see and hear in the middle of the French countryside, but, hey, am I not making a trip where everything is surprising and unpredictable?
The castle of Nouvelle Mayapur, where I entered by chance one morning of the late summer of 2009, in the beginning as a guest to enjoy a Prashad and afterward continue my trip but no. My guide named Eli, from Paris, was especially kind and generous with me. He suggested I stay for a couple of days, to “live the spirit of Hare Krishna with the community”. I accept the proposal with a little fear and caution. Why not. Those people treat me well. They dress and behave in a strange way but are kind and smiling. I’m in no hurry nor anyone waiting for me. Nothing to lose and much to learn.