Friday, March 30, 2012

To Ooty and Back

Listening to: Zooby Dooby from 3 Idiots (It’s an awesome song. Get thee to Youtube if you haven’t heard it.)
Mood: Calm, for the moment

Hello there boys and girls.

So the last time you intrepid readers heard, I was headed off into the wilds of Tamil Nadu to visit a place called Ooty. I may or may not have told you all of that info, but that’s what happened.  Here’s how it went down.

Since my Sir was gone to the United States slaying conference dragons for Target and ensuring he is never able to be deported from the US again for overstaying his welcome and I was pretty much sucked into a black vortex (shut up, I know that didn’t make sense) of working my butt off, there was a lot of talk of escaping our fare city of Bangalore, but little actual planning. So we went through some last minute scramble-ry trying to make something work. The first suggestion was Sri Lanka. It has long been on my list of Yes I MUST Visit There While On This Side of the World.  Unfortunately, we had to shelve the island due to time constraints. I am not packing all that awesomeness into 2 days. We then checked out day trips outside of B’lore. Most were booked as this was 2 days before we were supposed to leave. Tempers flared, general pissiness was present because I was really looking forward to some quality non-work time with the hubby and kiddos. Folks, I really, really hate having my plans cancelled. Let’s just say I don’t handle disappointment in an adult manner most of the time. Yep, a ginormous planning fail. A kindly (and expensive, if I may add) travel agent came to the rescue and found a bed and breakfast type thing in Ooty as well as a fearless driver who would ferry us to our destination. Let the packing commence. We checked the weather and found out that Ooty was almost as hot as Bangalore is right now. This was incredibly disappointing for me. India is hot as balls right now, and I was hoping for a change of pace. Or so I had heard it would be.

We requested the driver for 7 am on Friday, because when you only have 3 days, you want to make the most of it. Well, we do anyhow. Anyways. Our driver Manju showed up a half hour late, which is on time for Indians. We calmly and with minimal throwing things chugged our coffee and hustled the kiddos out of the house. Our vehicle was a mini-van type vehicle which suited us fine.  Being a mom for the past 8 years has taught me that you never even look at a car for too long without having stuff for kids to do along with you. We were prepared for this and the kids were well occupied in the back row of the van. The husband and I had some quality time to chat and generally get used to each other again after almost 2 solid months of being apart.  The drive was nice. The first time the hubby and I came to India we went to Bangalore and then took a small road trip to Mysore. I remember lots of greenness and palm trees. For some reason, this trip seemed less to that effect and more of the India that I’m used to seeing. Lots of small villages (which I get a HUGE kick out of driving through and watching the people and goings-on) and general beigey goodness. I have a theory about why Indian clothes and houses are so brightly colored – everything else is beige. Our driver for the most part was great. He wasn’t overly psycho, but didn’t take forever and a day to get where we wanted to go. We stopped at a small, empty hotel for breakfast. Some idlis (steamed rice cakes), dosai (like crepes) and bottled water later, we were on our way again. We drove through Bandipur state park, which was good fun along with a tiger reserve. We saw quite a few deer, some random monkeys (those buggers are EVERYWHERE) and some wild elephants as a crowning touch. We would have taken some photos, but you’re not supposed to stop or get out of the car. The girls were quite disappointed not to see some tigers, but their dad said he’d be surprised if the tigers actually existed.  Once we got out of Bandipur, the mountains loomed in front of us. We stopped at a tourist trap right outside of the park that looked like it might make us die of some exotic disease for lunch, but the food was great. The kids ate fried rice and the hubby and I ate some variety of chicken with garlic naan.  After lunch, we hopped back in the car for the most harrowing 3 hours of my life. I’m a pretty sedate car passenger. I can ride in an auto ducking and weaving through traffic without batting an eye. This was completely different. I don’t have a particularly large amount of faith in minivans’ ability to handle the road, so you can understand my nervousness. Ooty is located firmly up in the Western Ghats mountains. They are proper mountains and quite high. The solution to getting up and over them is a series of steep, curved roads with no fewer than 50 hairpin turns. I am totally not exaggerating. The most ironic part of this was that there were guard rails, but everyplace you look that you would think it was critical, the rail would be missing. Right at the outside of a curve for example. I started having many morbid thoughts of all of the cars that must have taken out all of these rails as they crashed over the edge to end up in a fiery death pile at the bottom of the mountains. Why yes, I do indulge in hyperbole sometimes. Why do you ask?? As it turns out, the section of the Ghats that we were in is a hot mess of tea plantations and most of the missing barriers lead to a road that would slope off at an almost 45 degree angle to some small shack in a tea plantation. Still. Anyhow, the scenery was beautiful. Everything was green and there seemed to be flowers everywhere we looked. Over all, it took us a good 7 hours (with stopping twice to eat) to get from Bangalore to Ooty. By the way Google Maps, 7 hours does not equal 5, just sayin. We stopped at a big hill in the mountains and climbed up it to taking in some mountain views. It was beautiful. It never fails to surprise me that nature is rather foggy/smoggy in India. I expect it in places like Delhi and Bangalore, but I thought it would be less cloudy in the mountains as not to many people are staying there. Back in the car for a little bit longer. Needless to say, we were VERY ready to get out of the car by the time we got there. Ooty is a super cute little town way up in the mountains.  To my eternal delight, it was cold when we got out of the car. You heard me, it was chilly.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast type place called the Lymond house. A little history about Ooty – when the British decided that India was a great place to take over, they neglected to take the weather into consideration. (See Britain not being hot as balls) The British decided the best way to deal with this was to invade the small towns in the mountains and make Hill Stations where they could be a bit cooler and wallow in British-ness.  I’m not a huge fan of British things. I just don’t have much interest. The Lymond House was an old British house that revolves around a British atmosphere. Seriously a lot of British schtick going on there.  They do, however, have beautiful gardens around the house. We were let into our “room”. We had a small sitting room, a living room with a bed in it, and a nice, huge bathroom. The power was out, which is not all that unusual in India. Power cuts run rampant.  We decided to settle down for some tea at a small table and chairs outside our room on the lawn. It was very nice. Lots of birds singing, flowers blooming, all that good stuff. The tea came, and to our dismay, it was British style tea. We are not British. Hubs is Indian and I am Indian by proxy. We like us some Indian style tea and coffee. Let’s just say it was atrocious and leave it at that. After tea, we headed out to see the botanical gardens. You can’t really compare it with the botanical gardens in say the Bronx, but it was a beautiful green space that we wandered around for a few hours. First garden I’ve ever seen that is build into a steep hill. Hiking was required. We even met the Suspicious Buffalo. We had a great time making fun of this buffalo for freaking out any time we came anywhere close. It wasn’t an attraction, just something we found funny. 

We headed back to our hotel room for dinner. We got some chicken pie thing for the kids – which was really like chicken alfredo pizza which was cool because they ate it. Hubs and I got some chicken curry and rotis. We were not impressed. We returned to our room and settled in for the evening. Everyone was properly beat by our long drive and hiking adventures, so we pretty much crashed. The room was rather dark, even with all of the lights on (who ever thought dark flooring and wall paneling was a great idea needs to be forced to live in a cave!) and the floor boards really freaked me out. They are very old, move when you walk on them, and squeak like you’re killing baby mice underneath.  They did, however, have geysers of a decent size. This was both very much needed and very much appreciated by yours truly. That was one of the best showers I’ve had in 6 months.

The next day, we woke up early again and headed out to try and catch the toy train to Coonoor, another hill station. Because of our spectacular lack of planning, we weren’t able to get tickets. We ended up just driving there anyways. Cue more beautiful scenery and heart stopping driving through the mountains. We stopped at a few tourist spots to do a little hiking and take in more mountain-ey goodness. The second place we stopped was much more commercial and had many more people. We didn’t like it as well. A monkey almost carried off my youngest. They are nasty, nasty little beasties. Thankfully, the hubs was holding on to her and a well aimed kick in the monkey’s direction stopped all the snarling and aggressive behavior.  When we were ready to go, we encountered a traffic jam. Let’s discuss this for  a minute. The roads in the mountains are BARELY big enough to let 2 cars pass each other going opposite directions.  While at this place, we saw full sized buses. No kidding people. All of these tourist spots are down long, windy roads in the middle of tea plantations. Cars were backed up for a full half hour while people tried to maneuver cars to the outer and inner edges of the road to get 2 busses past each other. It was hot, ridiculous, and ate a large chunk of the morning. We found a place to eat lunch after all the drivers banded together to project manage and get all of the cars moving. It was an odd place and I was even more afraid of the food than I was in Bandipur. It was the only thing we could find though, so we reluctantly ate. The kids again ate fried rice (SO thankful they like that – it’s pretty much available everywhere). The husband and I had paneer (it’s a type of cheese) curry and chapattis (whole wheat tortillas). The food was surprisingly good. After lunch, we headed to a park. It was nice, but we ended up listening to a lot of whining that we wouldn’t take the kids on the paddleboats.  We headed over to the train station to see if we could get tickets back to Ooty on the toy train. I was really hoping we could get seats. It’s a world heritage thing and seemed like fun for the kids to do. The kids and I sat in the car (where I napped to fend off a rogue headache) while the hubs and driver went and stood in line to see if there were any last minute tickets. We did end up getting second class tickets. A note to anyone else who wants to do this – plan ahead and splurge for first class tickets, especially if you have kids or don’t want to stand the whole time, but more on this in a minute. Hubs ran back out to the van and hustled us into the station. We crammed ourselves into an already full train car and fought our way back to the last 2 seats on the train. We crammed all 4 of us into the seat just as a butt load of people got on and squished themselves together, standing in the isle. Sitting in a very small seat with an 8 year old on my lap is one of my ideas of hell. Even if I love her to bits, my legs need a blood supply. It was about a 2 hour ride with some nice views. It generally went through a less touristy and developed route, so I enjoyed that. We saw a movie set too, but no one recognizable. Most of the locals we passed waved, which is unheard of for India.  After we got to the station, we headed out to find dinner. I was in a chaat mood (chaat is street food type snacks), so the driver took us to one of the nicer hotels that had a few restaurants attached. We got some pav baji (mashed up veggies with spices and hot rolls) and bhel puri (fried rice puffs with spices). It was all pretty bad, and that’s what we got for eating at a nice hotel. We went somewhere else to grab ice creams and then headed back to the Lymond house. We all pretty much passed out as the day was long and the hubs was convinced we were going to find the longest traffic jam in the history of the planet as we tried to go home so we were leaving early the next morning.

Another morning with English style coffee (for the love of baby yams people! It’s India – Indian coffee!!) and eggs and toast for breakfast. We packed up and headed back. The drive back to Bangalore was prettier.

As I left, I couldn’t help thinking that Ooty wasn’t very Indian. The British left such a huge impression on the way things were done there, it just doesn’t seem like India to me at all.  It certainly had its charms with the candy colored houses on tiers cut into the mountains and all the greenery, but it didn’t have India’s soul.
We took a different route down the mountain (a steeper and quicker one, of course) and a different route into Mysore. This one was so lush and green and covered in palm trees, we loved it. We stopped at the same breakfast place for lunch. The girls got puri (puffed up fried flat bread, it looks like a balloon) and vegetable noodles. The hubs and I got some chicken and rice. It was really good. It was funny, but the closer we got to Bangalore, the more crazy Manju started driving. The man loved his horn. We ended up back home around 4, which was nice so we could hang out and relax for a little bit. The kids played together and we hung out and had proper tea.

I enjoyed myself a lot. The food was pretty disappointing (I have very high expectations here people), but that’s pretty much true whenever you go on vacation here. Looking at you Delhi. I don't think I've ever seen so many cows, buffalo, goats and sheep since I came to India. It was a wildlife extravaganza. 

So that was Ooty. I would highly recommend taking a trip there, especially in the heat of the summer. I’m not knocking the Lymond house at all either, if you’re into British stuff, this is for you.


No comments:

Post a Comment