A refreshing break
06.01.2017 - 09.01.2017 15 °C
Day 20 - Friday - 06/01/17 - Ooty - Botanical Gardens
What a nice day. The temperature starts at about 15C at 8:00 and might get up to a glorious 20C. It's a pleasure to be outside after those hot days down on the coast and the plains. Even walking up hills is a pleasure again.
Today we took it easy with a walk down to the Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are very beautiful even now in the winter and must be absolutely stunning in spring. We spent the whole afternoon wandering through the gardens enjoying the plant life and the old buildings, including a pair of 1856 gate houses and a hot house which was built in the late 1800s and still has the original chunky, wrought iron hardware for manually operating the windows and roof to control the temperature.
Coming out of the Botanical Gardens, we walked around the local Tibetan Market and came to face with a specialty of the region - chocolate. I was sorely tempted but I resisted and didn't buy any. However it is only a matter of time and I know I will have some by this time tomorrow!
On the recommendation of one of the local shopkeepers we dined at Shinkows Chinese Restaurant. Well Chinese with a spiced up Indian flavour. The chicken and sweet corn soup was superb as were all the other dishes. We over ordered of course but our waiter realised this and didn't bring the boiled rice. This has happened a couple of times on this trip and whilst some may have been the result of forgetfulness or misunderstanding, I like to think it is the sign of a good waiter who probably has a better idea as to what will constitute a well proportioned meal at his restaurant than us poorly trained travellers.
I finally sat down and wrote my UK Christmas cards tonight, just a fraction late. I hope we will be forgiven, Helen and Mike and Manfred.
Day 21 - Saturday - 07/01/17 - Ooty
We just spent the day walking through town, checking out the shops and markets, checking the procedure for procuring train tickets and exploring to the Ooty Lake area. It was a fair walk so we took the bus back into the thick of it. (R5 EA)
With the trains, there is only one train going to Mettapalyum each day and that leaves at 2:00pm and arrives at about 5:30pm. The only train out of Mettapalyum is the Express to Chennai which leaves there at about 7:30pm and probably gets into Coimbatore at about 9:00pm. We shall have to investigate the trains from Coimbatore to Cochin. A sleeper from there would be good especially if we don't have to stay at Coimbatore.
Walking through the food market was enough to turn you vegan. The chooks are crammed into crates that don't allow them to stand. Within their sight, their brethren are slaughtered, butchered and hung to bleed. Maybe they are not smart enough to understand but they just look sad and beaten. When I think how well our chooks live with Cordon Bleu meals every day, their own free range and some idiot to pay their $130 vet bills and feed them with an eye dropper when they are crook, it just beggars belief. Talk about first world and third world hen houses!
I think I have noted previously that for Hindus, being kind to animals is good karma.
Whilst we waiting for our bus back into town from the Lake, we were sitting on the steps outside a snack bar when a scruffy but healthy looking ginger kitten appeared from under a building, sat down and stated talking to us. Then a young man came across the road, gave the kitten a passing stroke and disappeared into the shop. He was back a few seconds later with a piece of paper on which there was a crushed up biscuit or something similar. He gently poured it out on the step in front of the kitten, who very appreciatively tucked in. The man stood up with a big smile on his face, matching ours, and the kitten was purring. Great karma.
I held out until 5:30pm before I bought any chocolate and until 6:15 before I had a piece. Yum.
Dinner at A2B. Good veg tucker but not in the class of last night. The ice cream was a treat.
Day 22 - Sunday - 08/01/17 - Ooty
Being Sunday, we made it a bit of a day of rest.
The Sunday morning view from our balcony
We met some lovely fellow guests just after breakfast. They come from northern India and showed us a video they had just received from friends at home. It was actually snowing. Their son, who was travelling with Mum and Dad, lives at Bangalore. He told us that being further north and also being at an altitude of 500m, it means that the city is reputed to have the best all year round climate in India.
We still love Ooty. The clean air and cool temperatures have comybined to knock carol's flu on the head. She hardly coughed at all last night. As a result, we have gone from seriously considering going home early to wondering if we have enough time left to everything that we want to do!
Back to our Sunday. We got started so late, that by the time we got down town to have our daily coffee ration, it was well past lunch time, so we stopped and made a meal of it at Hotel Nahar. A veggie pizza and a couple of cappuccinos did us very nicely.
After lunch and a bit of shopping, we thought we would pop in to the Ooty Club and see if we could sponge a couple of g and t's.
The Ooty Club (officially known as the Ootacamund Club) was founded by the Brits (as was the town itself). It dates from 1842 and is of typical colonial architecture of the period. Of course it was for the exclusive use of members and their guests who naturally had to be white.
When we went to go inside, the doorman kindly explained that we could only enter as members or as guests of members. We would have to speak to the Club Secretary who was having a meeting on the verandah. He graciously invited us inside and told us some of the history. I asked what requirements there were to become a member and he said that you had to be introduced by a member and meet certain criteria. He was taken aback a bit when I asked that if we had now met perhaps he could introduce me! I was always good at diplomacy........
As with the exterior, the interior of the Club looked like it was caught in a time warp from the 1800s. The only reference to more modern times was a picture of the queen taken shortly after her coronation in 1953. Otherwise it was tiger skins and mounted heads of deer and other fauna. The hunt was a very big thing when the Brits were in charge.
Speaking of HRH, we do hope that she too has got over that nasty flu.
Unfortunately, there were no gin and tonics not even a humble beer. In fact one sign on the wall behind the bar read "Alcohol destroys country and family". Whilst this sentiment contains a grain or two of truth, I can't but think that the Club might have been a bit more fun during the Raj.
Walking back to the hotel we took a quiet side road and came across one of the few group of boys we have seen playing cricket. Now that's the way things were the last time we were in India.
Another meal at A2B tonight. This time I had the sweet corn soup and an "American" chow mein, whilst Carol ordered the cream of mushroom soup and a byriani rice. It was all good.
Time for another piece of chocolate then off to sleep.
Day 23 - Monday - 09/01/17 - Ooty
I resisted the chocolate binge last night! Sheer willpower.
We are both well again and enjoying India immensely again.
Today we took a full day "van" tour. A van is a small bus that will comfortably fit 20 leg less dwarfs. For everybody else it's a bit of a squeeze.
The tour took us first to the Government Rose Garden. Even though we are in the middle of winter, this was a beautiful location with many specimens still in bloom. My favourite was a rose with a very large flower. It was called Dolly Parton!
The rose garden was not originally on the tour. It was a bit of a consolation prize because the waterfall and dam wasn't worth going to due to there being little or no water. As it turned out however they turned out to be one of the highlights.
We drove on to a walk in the pine forest, which was very pleasant if not particularly novel.
Selfie in the pine forest
The next stop was at a lookout on top of a hill. It was quite a steep climb and as we were approaching the summit we were almost carried away by a mini whirlwind. The view was OK and include a fake Todas Hut.
The Todas are the original inhabitants of the area with a traditional history going back 2500 years.
There were swarms of school children, all wanting to say hi to us and to have a selfie taken with us. The children are charming and love to talk. They make you feel like a film star!
We had to be gently dragged away, back to our bus by our courier otherwise we would never have got away!
We moved on to the Pykara Dam boat house and a 20min boat ride on the dam lake. The lake is used for hydro power and fish farming but not drinking water.
We sat with our new French friend, Jean Francois, for lunch at a wayside eatery and then moved on to the highlight of the tour, the Mudamalai wildlife reserve which is called up as a tiger reserve. On the way in we saw a group of deer by the road.
We took the optional 'jungle ride' along with all our fellow passengers (all of whom were our friends by now) and another young couple, he being from Europe and she being Indian.
The jungle ride lurched along a very rough dirt road for what seemed like hours. In the reserve we were lucky enough to see another group of deer and a monkey.
Another group of deer.
Of course we only wanted to see the tiger or failing that an elephant. But no luck. After a while, the wags on the bus, ie all of the Indians and even a couple of Aussies, started making tiger roars and elephant trumpets and generally laughing and making a good time of it.
All of a sudden the ring-in Euro stood up and faced the rear of the bus and told us kiddies "That's not cool!". This brought the house down and everybody became even sillier. The poor guy sat down with his ears burning red. I'm sure he was very glad that he didn't have to travel back to Ooty in our van.
As soon as we got back in our van for the trip 'home', we saw a wild Peacock crossing the road and a short while later a group of wild boors lying by the road.
But the piece de resistance (excuse my French) came a few km later when we rounded a corner and there was a medium sized wild elephant lumbering across the road. He/she disappeared into the brush on the side of the road before I could get a camera pointed at him/her, however the image is imprinted on my mind's eye and always will be. Beautiful. Weren't we lucky? We could have saved the R150 EA for the jungle ride and still seen the same number of animals.a
The ride back to Ooty is some 36km of winding uphill road, blessed with 36, numbered, hairpin bends all of which we took on the wrong side of the road. For the motorcyclists among our readers (you know who you are), this was like doing the bendy section of the Oxley Highway to the power of ten. I would love to ride it on the Strom or even a Royal Enfield.
We supped (or should I say souped?) at A2B again tonight, coming home to pack as we intend to leave for Kochi tomorrow.