After the most expensive breakfast ever, with toast (that was almost worth it!) we managed to miss connecting with our new travel companions. Blast!
Never fear connections that seem to be meant to be have a way of sorting themselves out. We met them again at the bus stand and after a delay of several hours (India runs on IST – Commonly known as Indian Stretchable Time) we are pointed to a bus and get our bags and stuff on without a hitch. That was way easier than we had any right for it to be. Something must be up.
Sure enough a half hour into the trip the already full bus is boarded by 28 school kids and 7 teachers. They pile into the aisle, clamber to surround the driver and generally fill any available space. You can imagine our looks of horror when we hear they too are travelling all the way to Munnar – a four and a half hour trip!
We ended up sharing our recently vacated 3rd seat with 2 lovely girls who spoke minimal English. What ensued was lessons in English, Tamil, and Malayalam, amongst much giggling (young girls are same same – all over the world it appears) while traversing some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. Up up up. Hairpin turn after hairpin turn, air horn blaring all the way on roads that are one lane at best. Periods of standing still at an impass with downhill trucks full of rocks. No one ever wants to back up. Just another of those infruiating things in India – all I can do is shake my head and wonder.
We arrive in the dark and pile the four of us and 4 backpacks into a 3 person three wheeler autorickshaw and try 4 hotels, the Italian hagling mercilesly at every one. Eventually we head a km or so out of town and negotiate a good price that includes a cup of chai every morning (we are in tea country after all). How civilised! A good lesson for me in barganing.
My travel journal has this quote “To awaken in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world” –
Freya Stark. How true it was – loking out across the village on the side of a hill to hills covered in tea. What a stunning view. Tea is a fantastic crop to gaze upon – really otherworldly. Broken textures of bright green tips to dark green waist high plants straddling rugged terrain. Jagged row upon row as far as the eye can see. Makes me think I am in The Shire.
We ended up spending a week here and attempted some frustratingly funny yoga sessions and discovered that in India there seems to be no concept of ‘alone’ (when we try to explain it to English speakers they look at us a little dumbfounded – Does not compute??). Peaceful spots that appeared hopeful for Yoga turned out to be busy thoroughfares 20 minutes into the sesion when work and school finished, or it came time to collect firewood. Suddenly there were people everywhere – and in India they are not afraid to stop and stare and stare and stare. For both sessions we even had cattle walk through. This country will never cease to surprise, amaze and dumbfound…
We left the blesedly cool mountain climes for another fantastic bus trip heading East back down to the plains of Tamil Nadu. Back to the heat. Damn