Geo: 11.4134, 76.6952
We headed to Munnar seeking cooler mountain air; it was time to get the rash on my back, which was covered in insanely itchy prickly heat bumps, under control. Sharing facing bus seats with the delightful young women from England that we met at Kashi Arts Cafe a day earlier, our conversations ranged from meditation, yoga and many things spiritual to Japanese Encephalytus.
I always imagine our destinations in my mind, conjuring up pictures that undoubtedly are nothing like the real thing. Munnar lacked the untouched feel of nature I was hoping for and that we can get so easily in Canada. In our room at Green Valley Vista, when we looked out our wall of glass windows overlooking the valley with the mountains behind or sat on our very private balcony that shielded us from the activity around, I felt like we had found an oasis in India.
Not so much though when we listened to the sounds of the road behind, the amplified Kathakali performance everyday at 5:00pm and other surrounding sounds. Everywhere we turned, there are people, hotels and action. The road twists dangerously with big buses passing on blind curves while pedestrians dive for safety.
I swear vehicles have come within centimetres of scraping my elbow as we walk along the one lane 'highway' that carves deeply into the vivid green tea plantations.
Yesterday, Jim and I sauntered over to the neighbour hotel restaurant (Spice Country) for lunch on their terrace overlooking the Western Ghat mountains and valleys with the cool sun shining down on us. We ordered the best lunch ever - a delicious plate of garlic steamed vegetables - the almost neon orange carrots, cauliflower, green beans - and a bowl of vegetable fried rice. Divine. We were chatting about this and that and I said, "isn't it nice that we like each other's company so much that we can hang out comfortably together for such extended lengths of time?"
As eloquently as Jim expresses his feelings he paused, thought, and said, "yup." I had my usual momentary curious hesitation and thought, "what does he mean by that?" Then chose for it to mean simply what he said. We smiled at each other and that fleeting moment of tenderness was done.
But this is how it goes with us. There are no fireworks after 35 years together; there is solid, quiet, deep
love for and understanding of each other. We are good at being together and being apart, allowing the other to stay balanced in our natural rythmns of introversion and extroversion.
After we'd relaxed in that quiet, beautiful lunch setting we wandered over to the new hotel high up on the hill across the street. Entering the (empty) swanky lobby, a woman in the most gorgeous royal blue, orange and gold silk sari approached us. Her name was Aswathy and she greeted us kindly offering to take us up to see the dining room. She guided us to the oh-so-tiny elevator. It was about 3 feet by 4 feet, all glass with hot air being expelled from the overhead fan. I gasped as the three of us crowded in especially when I saw the sign 'maximum 8 people'.
Up we went, saw the deserted restaurant, followed Aswathy past construction workers to a second tiny elevator heading to the rooftop lounge and pool. Within seconds of the doors closing and the elevator grunting upward, it shook, dropped a foot and locked between floors! Aswarthy and I had a moment. We instinctively grabbed each other in complete panic, both of our
hands secreting enough sweat for me to notice the clamminess. We looked at each other in surprise and fear, then she gained her professional composure, letting go of me and calmly said, "It's okay, nothing wrong. We will fix." There is always the question of safety and maintenance in India...
It was hot in there. Jim, of course, remained collected. Except when I suggested we pry open the doors and climb out; that gave him the 'willies' as he thought of getting chopped in half once the elevator moved while he potentially was in between being in the elevator and on the floor.
Aswathy repeatedly pressed the help button, holding it down as if it was helping to suspend us in air. We tried calling and banging our flat palms on the glass. After the longest fifteen minutes imaginable, as we got hotter and hotter in the tightly closed terrarium, we noticed people downstairs scurrying about but no one was looking up at the three of us who were wide-eyed in anticipation of some form of visual acknowledgement. Aswathy assured us all was well and, as we have found here in India, we have not been let down.
The elevator shuddered and gracefully delivered us safely to the nearest floor.
"I'm walking from here!" I declared, taking the stairs as I let out a primal sigh of relief, encouraging each foot to connect to the ground below me. Aswathy and I have become fixed friends in fright/survival, having lived through a lifetime of connection in a few short moments.
We also met a young couple, Nick and Rachell from Holland, who we spent a day exploring the area - Rachell and I in deep conversations about life and Jim and Nick taking photos and sharing f-stop stories.
Next we moved onto Ooty, the more famous hillstation, hiring a car to navigate what would have been four different buses to get us to Mettupalayam. Up in time to wait in line at 5:00am, we caught the 7:10am miniature train that takes five hours to go 36 kilometres straight up into the Nilgiri mountains. Billed to be an experience of a lifetime, I guess in some ways it was!
We were very lucky to get a room at The Lymond House, a 165 year-old English cottage, a haven of gardens and lawn amidst the chaos of Ooty. One might
think it impossible but we continue to find serenity here in this country of one billion people.
One evening, two Indian couples who were also staying at Lymond, invited us and Morrie (an American traveler) to join them by the fireplace for drinks. Dolly, from Calcutta, and her brother Tripta, from Toronto, entertained us with song, dance and sibling rivalry. The evening's shenanigans came to an abrupt end for us when, while adding more sticks to the fire, the smoke poured into the room leaving Jim and I coughing and making a quick exit.
Jim continues to get up at 6:00am to walk for two hours in the frigid morning air of Ooty. With temperatures ranging from 0 degrees Celcius to 15 degrees later in the afternoon, we are wearing every layer of clothing we have (up to 6), peeling most of them off by mid-afternoon and layering back up for the evening. The good news is my prickly heat rash is gone.
I am delighted that we are meeting more people. I feel my meditation, yoga and writing keeps me centered, short bursts of sightseeing keep me worldly, engaging in conversations with people from India and around this
incredible planet feeds my very social nature and I connect with friends and family from home via Skype and email. With this balance, I feel healthy and able to sustain our travel with another 18 weeks to go...
To see more of Jim's photos and in higher resolution, visit his Flickr site.
Tot: 2.699s; Tpl: 0.072s; cc: 13; qc: 58; dbt: 0.0664s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb