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Published: April 22nd 2008
An 8 hour taxi ride from one hill station to the next, sweltering heat and sporadic rain on the plains, Indian taxi drivers only ever seem to have one windscreen wiper, which never works, so drive in rain with the head out of the window. Once we started climbing again into the hills, the scenery reverted to stupendous - at 2000 metres above sea level Kodai is higher than Coonoor, and the road snaking up took 2 hours from plain to summit to climb. Again driving through and then above the clouds the panoramic view was breathtaking, the access road appalling and the adrenalin levels rising with each km travelled. Towards dusk, black clouds enveloped our path and with sunset monsoon style rain and lightening took over. It was dark as we entered Kodai town, rain belting down on the mud roads - reminded of the opening scene of Blade Runner, all rickety stalls lit by oil light and vendors shouting there wares, oblivious to the weather. Ducked into the Hill Top Hotel, set in the midst of downtown mayhem, and collapsed for the night. Strange experience on the first night, about 3 am I was woken by dogs going ballistic, nothing unusual in that tho they sounded exceptionally frantic even by India's standards - then the explanation presented itself - they say that a wolf's howl chills the blood, and it does indeed - guess one of the dogs met an untimely end that night....
Had to find alternative accommodation fast, Kodai filling up with Indian holiday makers and our hotel booked up. Came across a taxi driver, Munni, who kind of adopted us (always with an eye on his edge, of course) and steered us eventually to Rose Neath, a row of 100 year old cottages high on the hill above town, very basic but with one great advantage, a big open fire place to burn the eucalyptus wood logs which serve as fuel around here. So at night really cosy, roaring fire, candles and incense, but at 3am bloody freezing! One hazard of living in these hills is the wild bison - woke one morning to find the earth outside the bedroom window churned up by something really large, looked down past the garden wall and there stood a particularly huge specimen - they are notoriously bad tempered beasts, and you wouldn't want to meet one on a dark night - apparently we missed bumping into this one on the way home from the pub by about 20 minutes....
Weather at Kodai very disappointing - almost every day saw clouds descend obscuring what we knew to be a stupendous view, like living in permanent fog which chilled the bones. In the evenings we got in the habit of spending a couple of hours at the only luxury hotel, just for the pleasure of having a pint and a ciggie in peace - very much a non-drinking area here, at least in public. Staff at the hotel tho were brilliant - they had a full size snooker table, pukka green baize etc, so decided I wanted to learn - the table came complete with ref who brushed the baize back into place after every disastrous attempt for me to pot or even hit anything...dead embarrassing. He did his duty with great forebearance and didn't even laugh once.
Kodai was the one place we found folk deliberately trying to rip us off, instead of just having their edge, wich one expects - our 'caretaker' at Rose Neath overcharged, under supplied and generally took the mick, Munni put her straight in the end, but it left a bad taste, and so we moved on. Sad really cos up til then we had no complaints. So Munni's brother taxied us down to Coimbator airport and we jetted off to Bombay, spent the night in a crap hotel before heading by taxi to the last place in our journey, Matheran hill station. Fantastic place, brilliant people - will do this later, cos its too good to hurry.....
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