Tuesday, 24 June 2008

One hundred and forty seven

That’s right I am in Ooty the birth place of Snooker!

Arriving after dark due to the bus running late and also side swiping a rickshaw on one of the tight mountain roads I didn’t feel like “searching” for a hotel. Across the road were a gaggle of them and it was a case of third time lucky. The 1st two being far too grotty for words. At only R250 a night it’s basic but clean. For washing, as in most cheap hotels here, a bucket of warm water is provided in the morning. Arh…the joys of a flannel bath!

On the bus here from Mysore you pass through a couple of nature reserves. From my window seat I saw herds of spotted deer and several elephants, both on the road and being washed in the river by their handlers. As we got closer to Ooty the mountains got higher and the temperature dropped. It got so cold I had goose bumps and ended up shutting the window because I found myself starting to shiver…fantastic!

The next day I was out for a bimble around town. Ooty (or Udhagamandalam as it’s now called) was a hill station founded by the British Raj to escape the heat of the summer months. The max temperature is a low 25oc so they made a good choice! The town itself sits in a narrow valley with an artificial lake and racecourse towards the eastern end of town. From my hotel it is about a 15-20 minute walk into the centre of town, with the main crossroads being named Charing Cross.

Arriving to early at the tourist office I bumped into a Portuguese lass called Ana who has spent the last 3 years teaching at Liverpool university (luckily she didn’t have a scouse accent) so with time to spare and a coffee shop across the road a conversation was had. Going our separate ways after the tourist office we agreed to meet up later in the evening for dinner.

Ooty has a well established botanical garden; so can you guess where I went first? Most of the specimens are from Australia, South Africa and other parts of the then mighty British Empire. I spent a good two hours there taking many “most excellent photos”. After a well earned lunch I had to buy a fleece as it gets cold in the evenings, which males a great change from being down on the coast and sweating

On my way back to the hotel I passed a man laying on his back crucifix style in the middle of the road. This being India everyone drove around him. Was he dead or dead drunk? Who knows but in the evening he was no longer there!

On Wednesday morning it was off to the Tribal Research Centre Museum 11 kilometres from Ooty. Yes, a bus was used and seating on the shiny vinyl covered rear bench seat made the fast tight corners even more fun? Upon arrival myself and Ana were shown around the centre by the caretaker/guide for a couple of very informative hours. There are several hill tribes in the area each existing within their own small niche of living styles and belief systems. Later on outside I was sharing a fag with the guide. Turns out he was ex Indian Navy deep sea diver. When I say deep I’m talking 250m plus! He’d been around the world 8 times but when he hit 34 it was time to quit. Age and a blown ear drum put a stop to the diving.

Today I went to the intriguingly name thread garden. For 12 years, 50 people (allegedly) spent their working days creating the garden. What’s so special about it? Well, all the “plants” are in fact artificial. Instead of using plastic and printed silk like everyone else they used stiff canvas shapes then, by hand, wound coloured thread around them.

and that’s me being nice about it.

Tomorrow, if like today it’s raining I be on the toy train out of here. If however it is nice and sunny I’ll be spending one more day here and heading out into the hills.

The next day it was almost good enough so I went for a walk, got lost and then wet! Later on in the evening back at my hotel after a vegetarian pizza I was squatting over the toilet with liquid coming out of 2 waste extraction points. That flow was soon followed by the entire contents of my stomach…I thinks this means I’m ill but will I be okay to travel in the morning????????

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