The valley we call Death isn’t really that different from much of the desert West. It’s just a little deeper, a little hotter, and a little drier. What sets it apart more than anything else is the mind’s eye. For it is a land of illusion, a place in the mind, a shimmering mirage of riches and mystery and death.

These illusions have distorted its landscape and contorted its history….It is a land of the deluded and the self-deluding, of dreamers and con-men.

Death Valley & The Amargosa – A Land of Illusion
Richard E. Lingenfelter (University of California Press, 1986)
 
 

Cutting through the wilds of the Grapevine Mountains in Death Valley National Park is one of the most arresting drives in the world, the Titus Canyon Road. Found along its 27-mile length are spectacular geologic marvels and vistas, and human imprints in the form of ancient rock art and the more recent ruins of dreams unrealized. As we shall see below, the road owes its existence to a flimflam. Titus Canyon itself is named after Edgar Morris Titus, who entered this rugged wilderness in 1905 but did not come out alive.

The one-way gravel route starts out in Nevada near the town of Beatty, then heads westward crossing into California through the high desert terrain of the Amargosa Valley. It penetrates the foothills of the Grapevine Mountains and begins its ascent through a series of switchbacks, first up the White Pass following through to upper Titanothere Canyon, then cresting at Red Pass before dropping into the defile of Titus Canyon, finally emerging from the canyon down a giant alluvial fan towards its terminus at Scotty’s Castle Road in Death Valley.

One-way Titus Canyon Road

One-way Titus Canyon Road runs east to west
Courtesy: Google Earth

 

Although this is officially a 4×4 road, in ideal conditions it can be negotiated with a high clearance 2WD. Most visitors to the park are thwarted by its remoteness and forbidding reputation. I wanted to experience the route at daybreak in the hope of catching the first light of the sun on the peaks. Many of the riotously colourful portions of the track are best photographed before the sun gets to them (cloudy days here are rare).

My wife Veena and I set out from Furnace Creek a little after 5 a.m. in the open Jeep Wrangler of our excellent guide Death Valley Jim. 25 miles later we were at the junction marking the beginning of Titus Canyon Road. Although suitably attired, the bitter cold had gotten to my bones by now and my fingers were in severe pain despite two layers of gloves. Our misery was compounded by the rattling of the jeep over the washboarded track.

 
Daybreak on Titus Canyon Road

Daybreak on Titus Canyon Road
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 

We were in the interiors of the Grapevine Mountains approaching the upper Titanothere Canyon when suddenly Nature flipped a switch and the peaks ahead of us caught fire. These are moments when you are overpowered by the ephemeral drama unfolding before you and your physical discomfort melts away. That wake-up alarm at 4 a.m. was worthwhile after all.

Peaks on fire near Titanothere Canyon

Peaks catch fire near Titanothere Canyon
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 

The origins of Titus Canyon Road lie in the skulduggery of con artist C.C. Julian. The account is retailed in a marvellous book by Richard Lingenfelter, a professor of physics at the University of California at San Diego. Knowledge of this historical background makes the excursion even more rewarding.

From: Death Valley & The Amargosa – A Land of Illusion by Richard E. Lingenfelter, University of California Press, 1986.

It all started on a blustery spring day in 1924, when a couple of Rhyolite hangers-on, Ben Chambers and Frank Metts, grubstaked by a Tonopah laundryman, Larry Christianson, found the big low-grade lead deposit they called the March Storm at the head of Titus Canyon. Julian boasted she was absolutely virgin ground that nothing had “ever walked, crawled or crept over, but a lizard, a rabbit or a mountain goat” until Chambers laid a pick into her…

…Before Julian could sell his “baby,” he had to dress her up. For starters, he bought a bunch of glowing reports from carefully selected “experts” whom he praised as “the foremost Engineers and Geologists of America.” They obligingly found no ore specimens assaying less than $30 a ton, and the most compliant, Bruce L. Clark, a professor of paleontology at the University fo California, blithely calculated that there was “nearly a million tons of milling ore,” although he later admitted that he knew nothing about mineral deposits. That was close enough, however, for Julian to call her his “hundred million dollar baby.” Then Julian unleashed a whirlwind of activity. On the first of December he started a crew grading a road up Titus Canyon to the mine. It was completed in six days, and more men, supplies, and equipment were sent in. They started two tunnels to open the deposits at depth, put up a boarding house and offices, laid out a townsite called Leadfield, and started a new, much longer road on up the canyon and over the Grapevines to Beatty.

 
 

Next stop, the Red Pass.

Carnival of colour: view from Red Pass

Carnival of colour: view from Red Pass
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Wide angle view from Red Pass

Wide angle view from Red Pass
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 

After descending the Red Pass we come to the ghost town of Leadfield. Lingenfelter again:

From: Death Valley & The Amargosa – A Land of Illusion by Richard E. Lingenfelter, University of California Press, 1986.

By the end of January, Julian’s baby was ready to “strut her stuff.”…A pipeline was laid from a nearby spring and telephone and telegraph lines were being run from Beatty. Julian had a hundred men at work and another hundred curious and hopeful souls had trekked in. Most just staked out some of the surrounding ground, but a few actually bought lots in Leadfield, opening a general store, a restaurant, and a combination barbershop and bathhouse.

On January 30, [1925], Western Lead opened up on the Los Angeles Stock Exchange. She was “hot stuff” from the start, and Julian boosted her daily…All the ballyhoo finally reached a crescendo on Sunday, March 14, when Julian brought a whole trainload of investors to Leadfield for a free lunch and a firsthand chance to give his baby “the once over.” He’d advertised for weeks a $30,000 extravaganza, a free excursion to quiet the last doubters….”COME UP or SHUT UP,” he taunted, when “THAT CHOO CHOO LEAVES FOR WESTERN LEAD…You don’t have to know anything about a mine to appreciate this ‘Baby’…I’m here to tell you that she’ll knock the eye out of anyone that takes a peek at her.” Out of 1,500 eager souls begging to be taken, 340 got the nod, and by 4:30 Saturday afternoon they were all aboard when the “Julian Special” rolled out of Los Angeles with eleven Pullman sleepers, two diners, and an observation car. Arriving in Beatty, Sunday morning, they piled into 90 private autos, hired by Julian, and joined more than 800 other enthusiasts who had driven down from Tonopah and Goldfield. In a grand caravan they set out on the 22-mile trek to Leadfield over Julian’s new road, opened just a few weeks before at a cost of $40,000 to $60,000. Getting there was an adventure in itself, for Julian’s road was, and still is, a “thriller” with a “hair raising series of corkscrew curves…cut out of the sheer sides of mountains” – “one of the grandest and the most rugged drives on the American Continent,” one enthusiast proclaimed.

With a chorus of squealing brakes and a staccato of dynamite blasts from the surrounding hills, the caravan wound its way to Leadfield. For a few hours the little camp actually looked like a lively boomtown the excursionists expected, as twelve hundred people and a few hundred cars jammed the main street. Julian’s admirers hoisted him on their shoulders, the crowd cheered, and a motion-picture camera rolled to preserve it all for posterity. Then the hungry throng queued up at Ole’s Inn for their free lunch of barbecued turkey, pork, beer, salad and “all the trimmings,” including some hot jazz from a six-piece band….Then they were herded into the tunnels by Jack Salsberry to ogle the jazz baby in all her glory. It was a rousing success. The next day her stock jumped to a new high of $3.30 in record trading on the Los Angeles Stock Exchange.

But it all came crashing down just two days later…

 

C.C. Julian was quite a character. Among his other achievements was the black eye he dealt Charlie Chaplin in a fistfight.

 
Our guide Death Valley Jim and his jeep in Leadfield

‘Death Valley Jim’ with his Jeep Wrangler in Leadfield
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Ruins of the ghost town of Leadfield

Ruins of the ghost town of Leadfield
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Colour in the desert

Desert colour
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 
Hills of colour

Wonderland
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 

Not long after Leadfield we encounter Klare Spring, site of ancient petroglyphs that has been subjected to vandalism. From here the track leads into Titus Canyon proper, through its impressive narrows culminating in a vista of Death Valley. The striated and polished walls are profitable photographic subjects and they speak of the canyon’s history in a language understood by geologists.

Titus Canyon Road

Walls of Titus Canyon

Canyon’s history
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Narrows of Titus Canyon

Narrows of Titus Canyon
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 
 
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  • Marilyn Slater - January 20, 2013 - 6:43 am

    The photograph takes my breath away- the sense of space but more, I can feel the silence. The power of lightReplyCancel

  • Sanjeev - January 14, 2013 - 10:00 pm

    Stunning footage !!

    I am sure this will astound even the regulars at Death Valley.

    Your collection will be worthy of a book soon…ReplyCancel

  • Premanand - January 14, 2013 - 7:26 pm

    Dear Rajan,

    Your posts made me curious about Death Valley. While I was searching for it on the Internet, I found this website. It is a photograph album containing pictures taken during a sightseeing trip made from Los Angeles to Death Valley in 1926.

    http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf367nb34j/ReplyCancel

  • Thomas Pindelski - January 14, 2013 - 10:07 am

    The third image is as special as it gets. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Börkur Hrólfsson - January 14, 2013 - 7:23 am

    I want to ,,do” this road, but in a comfortable, and warm vehicle. Don´t you have them in California ?
    It´s a great place, and the colors man, they are stunning !
    It´s a perfect route.ReplyCancel

Survey of the city’s old barber shops.

The few surviving barbearias (Portuguese for barber shops) of Panjim are reminders of a zeitgeist in which the simple pleasures of life could be enjoyed in a placid, languid setting. It was a civilized Goa. (No, this is not romanticization of an imaginary, distant past. There are photographs to attest to those times and some of us who lived through them are still alive and not that old.) These hangovers now seem incongruous, unable to keep up with the more contemporary hair saloons and stylists that blot dot the city, mostly staffed by outsiders since it is very hard to find a young Goan willing to adopt the métier.

Most of the barbearias of my childhood have closed shop. Notable among them was the one located inside the municipal gardens in the city’s centre. As was customary at the time, every family in Panjim usually had a chosen shop that its members patronized (similar loyalty obtained in matters of tailors, grocers, cafés, and so on). Barbearias were also the chat rooms of that era, an important community router directing news and gossip.

Our own affiliation was to Barbearia Nova, founded in 1958. My father would haul this little twerp there and furnish detailed instructions to the head barber on the kind of ‘cut’ he wanted for me. I had no say whatsoever in the matter.

A couple of years ago, I took an excursion of the town’s barbearias. At Barbearia Nova I was stoked to see that the old kids chair made by Takara was still around. (For a brief history of the barber chair, see this.) Barbearia Real is still managed by its original owner. The oldest of the survivors is Barbearia Indiana, seen in the final photos below. I managed to track down Ramchandra Velgenkar, barber emeritus at Indiana, and had a delightful chat with him at his home.

All my blog posts devoted to the heritage of Panjim are consolidated here.

Barber's chair made by Takara of Japan

Barber’s chair made by Takara of Japan
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Barbearia Nova, 1958, founder Ramnath Kundaikar

Barbearia Nova, 1958. Founder: Ramnath Kundaikar
5D Mark II, TS-E 24L II

 
Kids chair, Barbearia Nova

Kids chair, Barbearia Nova
5D Mark II, 14L II

 

Barber Vishnu Virnodkar in action

Barber Vishnu Virnodkar

Armed and Dangerous: Barber Vishnu Virnodkar
5D Mark II, 14L II

 
Chair specs at Barbearia Nova

Takara chair specs at Barbearia Nova
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Group photo of the early barbers at Barbearia Nova

Members of the early staff at Barbearia Nova
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Barbearia Real, 1958.  Founder: Datta Sakhalkar

Barbearia Real, 1958. Founder: Datta Sakhalkar
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Datta Sakhalkar, owner of Barbearia Real, 1958

Datta Sakhalkar in action
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Barbearia Indiana, 1926.  Founder: Hari Borcar

Barbearia Indiana, 1926. Founder: Hari Borcar
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 

Barbearia Indiana founded in 1926 by Hari Borcar of Ekoshi

Barbearia Indiana founded in 1926 by Hari Borcar of Ekoshi

Tools of the trade
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 

Ramchandra Velgenkar - retired barber from Barbearia Indiana

Ramchandra Velgenkar - retired barber from Barbearia Indiana

Ramchandra Velgenkar – retired barber from Barbearia Indiana
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
 
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  • Augusto Pinto - January 20, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    Most of the barber shops were manned by the ‘mhale’ or barber caste, nowadays called the Gomantak Nhavi Samaj. Nowadays I think that few want to carry on with this profession and with education they can easily migrate to other fields. Or if at all they still run the shops, they hire barbers who migrate here from Andhra and other states. Even otherwise the migrant barbers are taking over the show even in the villages.

    At the same time Hair Stylists, or Hair and Beauty Salons are being opened in Goa which can be quite high tech are being opened, where many Goan women have begun joining the profession.ReplyCancel

  • vnm - January 14, 2013 - 3:43 pm

    Do (traditional) naviks in Goa double up as (temple) musicians?ReplyCancel

  • Mervyn Lobo - January 11, 2013 - 8:23 pm

    Thanks for recording this before it is gone forever.ReplyCancel

  • jc - January 11, 2013 - 6:13 pm

    Another lovely photographic memory of gentler times gone by. The faces tell a story, in a delightful state of calm. It is unfortunate that, in the name of modernization, the rat-race is taking over. I have good memories of Barbearia Real. Thanks Rajan. Thanks very much.ReplyCancel

  • Nandkumar Kamat - January 11, 2013 - 4:04 am

    Very creative project in Panaji’s visual social anthropology. Outstanding concept, outstanding idea, perfect tributes to professionals who are being thrown out due to influx. Yes, I have excellent memories of the barabaria – esp. the one in municipal garden, there was Sankhlakar nr. old Sher e Punjab (now Yatin Parekh’s shop stands there) and one which I patronised till last year nr. Hindu Pharmacy. Owner Ramchandra was a good friend of my father Mucunda and has many stories to tell.
    Nanu Tarcar Pednekar from this class (they call themselves Goa Nabhik Samaj) was a well known reformer of first half of last century and was active in educational and library movement. They founded the Mahalaxmi vachanalaya in Mala.
    In association with Goa Nabhik Samaj this exhibition can be taken to people all over Goa.

    Great work Dr. Rajan, Panaji speaks through your lens. Purchase all the volumes by Vasco Pinho on history of Goa/Panaji and the one (may be 3rd or 4th) on old Panjim with rare photographs post 1880-90. I gifted my personal copy to Mr. Manoharbab Parrikar on May 25 in his cabin.
    ReplyCancel

    • Rajan P. Parrikar - January 12, 2013 - 7:31 am

      Dr. Kamat, thank you for your remarks. I do have all the 5 volumes of Vasco Pinho’s work on Panjim, and they have been personally signed by him. I make it a point to meet Vasco-bab every time I am in Goa for we are united in our common love of Panjim & Goa.ReplyCancel

These images were taken in Death Valley, California, a couple of days before last month’s full moon. In the first photo, a very mild Belt of Venus effect is seen.

Moon over Grapevine Mountains and Kit Fox Hills, Death Valley

Moon over Grapevine Mountains and Kit Fox Hills, Death Valley
5D Mark III, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
Last rays of the Sun

Last rays of the Sun
5D Mark III, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
Moonrise

Moonrise
5D Mark III, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
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  • Jon - January 10, 2013 - 9:49 am

    I never knew the Belt of Venus was a named phenomenon. I learn something new everyday! Thanks Rajan!ReplyCancel

  • Yash Kamat - January 8, 2013 - 4:25 am

    Wow!! Moon is beautiful!.ReplyCancel

The village of Mashel (also spelled Marcela) in Goa holds a unique distinction: it is said to be the only site in India where Krishna is worshipped alongside his biological mother, Devaki. The origins of this unusual practice are lost in the mists of antiquity. What we know is that an ancient temple of Devaki-Krishna was the pride of the nearby island of Chodan (Chorão). After it was sacked by the Portuguese soon after their arrival in the early 16th C, the idol was squirreled away by the hapless villagers to the hamlet of Mayem. Eventually it found a safe haven in Mashel where it was reconsecrated around the year 1560.

To me this temple has special significance for Devaki-Krishna is the family deity of the Parrikar clan. Temples in Goa are a great deal more than just religious sites. They hold records of family lines and serve as repositories of socio-cultural lore. The annual festival (known as zatra) at the Devaki-Krishna temple is held every January and this year it falls on the 27th.

The first two images below were taken in August 2012.

Devaki and baby Krishna of Mashel, Goa

Devaki and baby Krishna of Mashel, Goa
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 100 f/2 MP

 
Krishna

Utsav murthy of Krishna made of the stem of the Tulsi tree
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 

Now a rant about this photo of the temple, taken in July 2007: I have tried to mask the ugliness as best I can, but it is a tough task. The once beautiful temple grounds now present an unsightly look. The new Indians have lost their aesthetic soul. In Goa the fashion of the day is to take down old temples and replace them with concrete rubbish which is then painted in psychedelic colours not even Photoshop can tame. In those instances where alterations to old temples are undertaken, any hint of open space is plugged and the dwelling converted into a de facto rathole. I call this phenomenon “Tata Engineering,” a toxic combination of Indian ‘architects,’ ‘engineers,’ and ‘planners.’ The two key axioms of this tribe are: (1) Thou shalt never design anything fit or safe for human use, and (2) Thou shalt make things as hideous as possible, and then some.

Devaki-Krishna Temple at Mashel

Devaki-Krishna Temple at Mashel
5D, 24-105L

 
 
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  • H Saigiridhar Rao - January 18, 2017 - 10:14 am

    Dear friends, I am travelling to Mashel tomorrow morning by my Royal Enfield 350.
    Every year I attend Sharada pooja celebration at my Uncle’s home in Mangalore after which I travel down to Mashel with my family as it is our Kuladevatha.
    For the last three years I couldn’t make it, after my Amma’s death in 2014.Now I am looking forward to my visit to our Kuladevatha’s abode and I am thrilled about it.ReplyCancel

  • Madhav Vijay Prabhu, Kumta - December 25, 2016 - 3:35 pm

    Wow…. Its a really great page…. I liked it a lot….In my native that is KUMTA in KARNATAKA there is a place called KAGAL there is a statue of DEVAKI KRISHNA….It’s the oldest statue which formerly resided in marcel…. Here by i request all the devotees to visit once to this place and seek the blessings…..ReplyCancel

  • Manoj Joshi - December 5, 2015 - 6:12 am

    I would like to have a photograph of Shri Devaki Krishna idol. Please let me know in case you have one.
    Thanks

    Manoj JoshiReplyCancel

  • Jaywant Dharwadkar - March 30, 2014 - 12:36 am

    Your pictures and clarity of the pictures are really remarkable. I am huge fan on your photo blog. I am maintaining the DevakiKrishna page on FB through my own little efforts. I would really appreciate if I can post some of your pictures on this FB page. Or if you can post the same on my page that will be great. Would love to get in touch with you.

    My details are – Jaywant Dharwadkar
    Email – dharwadkar@gmail.comReplyCancel

  • Sivaprasad Madhav Prabhu - December 18, 2013 - 11:17 am

    Dear Parrikar Mam, thank you very much for the Blog & the excellent photo of our Kuladeavatha…ReplyCancel

  • Deepesh - November 9, 2013 - 11:23 am

    Thanks Rajan for the information and sharing the beautiful pic of GOD Devaki KrishnaReplyCancel

  • vnm - January 6, 2013 - 4:22 am

    Following Arun,

    saccidānandarūpāya kṛṣṇāyākliṣṭakāriṇe |
    namo vedāntavedyāya gurave buddhisākṣiṇe ||ReplyCancel

  • Arun - January 5, 2013 - 2:52 am

    Vasudeva sutam devam Kamsa-Chanur mardanam
    Devaki paramanandam Krishnam vande jagatgurum.ReplyCancel

Continued from Part 1.

Not long after we entered the mouth, I was assailed by doubt on whether we had entered the right canyon. With shadows lengthening, no course correction was possible this evening. Hoping for the best, we trudged through for another 10 minutes and then turned a corner. Anxiety gave way to exhilaration as we saw the first splash of colour.

The images below speak to the splendours of the Kaleidoscope Canyon.

First splash of colour

First splash
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 
Closer look at the colours

Closer look
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Art gallery

Outdoor art gallery
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 
Cathedral of colour

Cathedral of colour
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 
Subtle hues

Subtle hues
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Vivid

Vivid
5D Mark III, TS-E 24L II

 
Crayoned slickenside

Crayoned slickenside
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Stained bowels of the canyon

Stained bowels of the canyon
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Red stone and Desert Holly

Red rock and Desert Holly (Note: as found)
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Polychrome

Polychrome
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Bleeding rock

Bleeding rock
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope
5D Mark III, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 MP

 
 
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