ooty and the villages

3 December 2004

If you are going to go to one hill station in the south, go to Kodai. But you know I was travelling with this Russian girl and she wanted to go to Ooty, so we go to Ooty.  Both Ooty and Kodai are good places to set off into the hills and see the land.  The narrow guage steam train ride up is amazing. We got a recommendation to catch a bus up to the village of Solghur and walk around the tea plantations. Solghur isn't on the map really (just a dot) so that sounds like a good idea.

Its really amazingly beatiful here. Every direction, every plant, every piece of dirty is amazing. Elephants walk around at night causing trouble and leaving huge piles of shit. The villagers all work on tea plantations. Some of them smile, some of them look blankly at us. Some boys walk with us, seem friendly and offer to take us to 'viewpoint'. They are touts (they will ask for money later) but its good--they are friendly and peaceful and exactly the kind of person I like to give money to in exchange for a little tour.

This turns out to be to a temple where a mother and son live. He speaks english. She speaks 'villager speak'--Bodaga--which isn't Tamil. Its probably related to it. There are tribal villagers up here, but the ones I saw looked pretty obviously "tribal": topless women, rough dark sunburnt skin. She looks Tamil, smiles a lot and vigorously rubs ash into my forehead (anja), throat(vissudhi) and stomach(manipurna). Everybody laughs all the time and babbles at us. So we end up staying for dinner, and then of course we end up staying the night in the temple. There are two cows from which we eat ghee and curd and drink buttermilk and chai. At 5.30 the cows came home.

The temple was started by her late husband. Its on a very perfect hill with an amazing view (but then they are all amazing). She does special puja for some businessmen who came up from Coonoor. They have "problem" for which they are getting "solutions". Her voice changes quite a bit, she really really gets into it chanting questions. Its a bit weird that we are sitting in the temple, but she doesn't mind it.

Straight afterwards her voice goes back to normal and she motions "now i want to cook you lots and lots of food and stuff you full" which is exactly what she does. These two do not take no for an answer, which is a bit annoying, but they are so full of energy we just have to watch them go at it. The water from the water hole tastes really good.

The next day we move onto Mavallan (not on the map, but near Masinagudi). We are getting really into not being on the map. The ride down the Western Ghat in the bus is really amazing. And scary. Bokkapuram is filled with exclusive expensive resorts, but its also a small rural tamil village and so they have a yearly festival. We get to go to the yearly festival. Its crazy dancing with Karadays on the head. Really intense rock-and-roll energy. The women especially got really emotional trying to dance with these obviously heavy crowns. 

The park is closed due to drought, so we try to move onto Bandipur park just over the border into Karnataka. Just waiting at the bus stop we see some new kind of monkeys, deer and Elephants. We get off the bus and the officals surround us and some guy yells at me in some language and throws his hands around in totally useless gestures. "Okay, stop yelling at me in Tamil, Malayam or whatever it is, its pretty obvious that I don't speak your language. Use hand gestures that are meaningful and can be understood." He's one of these power mad people and just likes to release energy and raise a fuss to show how important he is and how dangerous the situation is. After he gives up, somebody else speaks english and tells us that the notorious bandit Veerappan has forced the park to shut. We must leave immediately. okay okay no problem no problem no problem next bus we leave. Its beatiful even there on the road. Trees, stars, deer walking around casually. Some really nice Elephant Mahoot (lifelong companion of the elephant) manages to pidgeon enough english out to tell us where to transfer the bus. Then a truck pulls up and we all get in the back and drive through the dark of the park. Way better than the bus. In a couple of hours we get to the big city: Mysore.


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