Manzil means destination in hindi. De-haat means countryside. Makdi means spider.
Since Jacob didn’t have anything planned for us Saturday, most of us took advantage of the opportunity by going on different weekend trips. Some people went to Delhi and Kerala, but four others and me chose a weekend in the Southern mountains in Ooty.
My friend, Marissa, and I didn’t have class Friday so we left Thursday night via bus. Thirteen hours later we made it to Ooty, waking up for the last couple hours to wind our way up the road through tea plantations, small towns, and other beautiful scenery.
We found our way to the nicest YWCA in the world (costing us a whopping $4 each), dropped off our backpacks, and set out for the day. We went to Ooty Lake and took a paddleboat out, walked through the botanical gardens, wandered through the small, but still honking city of Ooty, went to dinner, and watched Harry Potter. It was really fun exploring a new city, but I think the day’s events made me feel the closest to culture shock that I have felt yet.
Ooty residents are much less traveled and exposed to Westerners compared to people in Bangalore. This made Marissa and I that much more interesting being two little white girls in India. On our way to the lake, we walked on a somewhat deserted street and were first stopped by two friendly guys who wanted to take a picture with us. They were students at Christ University also and were perfectly good people, but our agreement to take a picture sparked more interest from others. Another groups of boys and young men asked for pictures with us and may have followed us for a bit. During this whole episode, a man walked in front of us pretending to take pictures of things in front of him with his phone, but was really videoing us walking behind him the entire time. He definitely followed us around in the crowd by the lake, which made us quite a bit on edge and considered getting a rickshaw back to the YWCA and staying in all day. He eventually left and we went on our merry way, but were definitely on edge the rest of the weekend.
These people and the many others that stared, took pictures, and tried to approach us were probably just as interested in us as we are in the locals in general. I have definitely taken my fair share of stalker photos since I got here, too. However, both women and men warn against any type of interaction or contact with men here. White women are perceived as loose and “ready for sex” so only eye contact or a smile cans end the wrong message to someone on the street. It is frustrating living in fear, but it is important to remember that you don’t need to be friendly with everyone you see and can get close to those you know and can trust.
Fears aside, the other girls arrived Friday night and e enjoyed sleeping in a bit Saturday morning. We then “hiked” to the highest point in the Nilgiri Mountain Range. Hiked meaning our bus dropped us off at the bottom of a hill and we walked the mile up while cars drove past. It was quite the tourist spot, but the view was incredibly of valleys and other mountains. After that we went to The Tea Factory and watched how tealeaves get processed. By this time I was pretty tired of the tourist scene. We eventually got a taxi to out next lodging place about 30 km down the beautiful mountain at a place called Glenn View Resorts. I was asking for remote and I definitely got it.
The resort didn’t even have a sign on the main road like all the others, but our driver eventually found it. The drive there felt like a safari in itself, driving by monkeys on bridges, rocky roads, and random cows and goats. We had one hut and a tree house made out of bamboo (hellooo George of the Jungle). It was so pretty and quiet, which was very refreshing after all the city life. The major event of the evening was between the three of us in the hut, the resort manager, and a spider the size of my hand. Luckily it ended with the death of the spider (killed by the manager obviously) and us finally going to sleep after dripping heavy duty bug repellent on the walls surrounding our bed (accidently staining the walls and making the bed look like a crime scene). We woke up Sunday morning for an early morning safari trek. After worrying that the trek was actually going to lead to our abduction and then thinking the guide was just messing with us pretending to track animals, we saw a herd of wild elephants, water buffalo, and hyena dens. We relaxed and ate the rest of the day until we had to take the bus back to Bangalore.
And the story isn’t over! (if anyone is actually reading this far) The drive down involved an even twistier road than the one we drove up, with incredibly tight switchbacks that looked impossible for a bus to drive around, but ours did along with the many others it passed going around these turns. Half an hour in, at least half the bus was grabbing for barf bags while an awful Bollywood movie played on the tv (Greese meets Westside Story meets Rocky). I was grateful that none of us joined in the puking and we eventually made it back to Bangalore, stuffed the five of us and our bags into a three-person rickshaw, and went to bed by 2 am. Overall it was a pretty fantastic weekend and I will eventually add pictures so the beauty of Ooty can be appreciated.