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Published: March 17th 2009
After 24 hours of beeping horns and being pestered by rickshaw drivers, beggars and shoe-shiners the bus station was a welcome sight as it was our escape from manic Chennai; however, the bus station itself was a place to be experienced, no words can convey the surprise at what the bus station was. It was a bit of scrap land with some plastic tables and chairs, rats running freely underneath and the timetable hurridly chalked onto a wobbly board nailed to an electricity post.
Stepping on the bus in readiness of a long overnight trip was a little daunting but with baggage stowed and water in hand we set off. One of my next memories was around 8 hours later and the bus giving an unfamiliar groan and constant drawn changing of gears... why? Because the bus was chugging up the mountains, all 3000ft of them to our destination, Vattakanal, a few kilometers upwards from the mountain station of Kondaikanal. The sights out of the windows were stunning but scary, breathtaking but confusing, I had never seen such beauty but such confusion. Looking out of the windows we saw depths of poverty amongst this beauty; it is surreal - little children staring longingly at the bus windows as we drove past... we saw many villages, vulnerable children, poor mothers and ramshackle shops made out of wood and boards.
Then, in the middle of nowhere a huge shiney spanking new building annoucning its status as centre of excellence for botony and biology - again, such wealth next to such poverty and I find this hard to reconcile in my mind.
We took a taxi from Kondaikanal to Vattakanal, then a walk up a mountain side to a cottage where Kay and Sam had previously stayed. I couldn't manage the climb, I have never felt so tired nor my legs felt so much pain and apparently a lot of that was due to lack of oxygen from the high altitude Vattakondi sits at.
We have a 2 roomed cottage for Sam and I, 4 x double beds a log fire and a little bathroom. Basic but lovely.
The people here are brilliant, they are so pure - they find it very hard to make money; there is no greed in these little mountain villages. They are very welcoming and tell us about their lives here.
My summing up of this district. Markets so colourful its hard to take in all the colours; chickens being beheaded when someone chooses which they want for dinner, then plucked while still warm from life. Dried fish for dinner, cows wandering round markets, people begging us to buy things "Madam, sit sit, i show you best things, sit sit" is a common conversation!!
The man at the post office sticking stamps on by using pritt-stick type glue; being able to buy coconut oil, sewing needs, nails, scouring pads and swimming costumes all from one store no bigger than 5ft square. Woman is saris riding sideways on motorbikes, monkies roaming up to us, a wild bison walking round all the village gardens frightening all the locals.
Bredda Butta Tost with bredda jama butta - I wanted to steal the menu but thought better of it and photographed it instead.
Watching the clouds 100's of feet below feeling the burning sun so high up; seeing the clouds rise taking trees and houses into their depths giving a chill in the air. The mist comes, it goes, it is burning hot, it is cold, it is beautiful, it is mountains poking above the clouds, steep hills, breathless people, laughter... This is an awe-inspiring place and if you ever you are in Southern India this mountain station villag eis a must
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