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Published: January 14th 2014
We made an early start with a nice breakfast of "dosa" and headed to the station for a train headed to Incombatore. Ugly station but livened up by a group of black dressed pilgrims like we had seen a few days earlier. Noted the work of the guy putting drying powder on the poos between the rails of the platform beside ours.
We had second class seats which at least meant we had reserved seating. Third class you might need to fight off a chook or goat. As is customary the Wallahs walk up and down the aisles selling Chai tea, or deep fried snacks. Love the sing-song way they advertise their product. "Chai Chai Chai" sung in a baritone voice.
Our backpacks needed to come to the racks above our seats so there was some huffing and puffing to make that happen. its good we are traveling with a dozen people and it is pretty evenly distributed between girls and boys so the jobs get distributed early. I picked up a copy of a Time Magazine equivalent and caught up on some of the twists and turns of the Indian political cycle. Got up with
our gear to the doors well before the station so that we could stay together and not get overwhelmed in the crush of passengers joining the train.
As always we were happy to be out of the railway station with all its offensive smells and sideways glances. Onto a small tourist bus. It was pretty damn hot. All the gear was loaded into the cabin with us. Incombatore had little to recommend it but just outside we were taken to a pleasant public vegetarian restaurant. Here for 75 Rupees ($1.30) you can have all you can eat: with your fingers of course. We ate rice, plus four or five mild curries off big banana leaves laid directly on laminex tables. The process was one of washing one's hands first and then the leaves and then sambals, curries and chutneys were delivered from large stainless steel buckets. The locals have a very efficient way of scooping the rice and sambals off the leaf and into one's mouth. Simple.
Onto the bus again for a somewhat hair-raising climb up the mountain roads towards the hill station Coonoor. Along the way we saw the first of many floats celebrating local culture
and democracy. The driver earned his keep by overtaking under challenging circumstances, and avoiding being run off the road by the crazies coming down the mountain. All turns, passing maneuvers or misdemeanors are accompanied by a toot of the horn. We gradually climbed higher and higher onto a plateau at about 1200 m. Palms and dense undergrowth along the way. Macaque monkeys common along the roadside. Beautifully cool and less humid up on the plateau. Some beetle nut palm plantations along the way.
We wound our way through the townships on the plateau to our hotel, which had a spectacular view to the east down the valley to the plains below. It was nicely nestled in amongst tea plantations. The group we are travelling with enjoy a drink and so whisky and gin were soon produced, and sundowner were served on the balcony looking down the valley. Cool air rolled in as the sun dropped. Wonderful dinner together with multiple curries, veg and non-veg as the say, and Kingfisher beer. Somewhat surprisingly we were able to step outside and fire up a camp fire using the roots of old, exhausted tea tree roots. Not tea tree like in Oz
but the gnarley roots of the trees trimmed for tea leaves. The smoke had a recognisable aroma. A clear three quarter moon rose up the valley and we had starlight. I can't say I heard the monkeys that apparently played on the roof, of the roosters that we obviously in the villages around us.
Can't say we saw any evidence of the English Raj - perhaps the railway bridges. Oh, and the system of government. Oh, and the ...
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