The weeks are going by extremely fast and the ones who have been out with Kulturstudier before, know that one must take advantage of the weekends and exploit them to the fullest. (One can read and work on train rides, bus rides, flights etc!) This weekend eight of us hired an old 4×4 and drove some ten hours, westwards. We missed our main attraction on the way and proceeded to Ooty. We had to almost drift our way through the snaky passages of the Nilgiris Mountains, avoiding the over packed buses and tiring trucks. As we drove the sun was rising and we saw the jewels of the forest start to glister to the sun’s rays of light, clearing away the mist, which had been submerging the mountain valleys. We tried to spot wild tigers and elephants on the way (as there were warning signs of the latter,) however, we were only blessed with grey monkeys and school children. Soon Ooty unfolded before us in between the Nilgiris Mountains. The first thing we noticed was the crisp and fresh air, as opposed to the moist and warm air of Pondicherry. We found our accommodation – a Christian guest house with a chapel and multiple pianos (which some of us utilized dearly,) and explored Ooty. We did some sight-seeing, a lovely trek through the town and visited their “House of Horror” and “Mirror Maze”. One of the aspects which Ooty had in common with Pondi was that it seemed to be a mix of different worlds – charming eastern European looking slopes with sheep, crowded Indian markets, patterns of tea plantations and dense pine forests. The people were as friendly as anywhere else in India and on the way home from our trek, some of us were invited on top of an over-populated truck full of laughter, live music and dance.

On our departure we tried our luck with the main attraction and after much patience and standing in multiple of lines; we got seats on the famous Nilgiris Toy Train to Mettupalayam. Such trains are not for the faint hearted or claustrophobic, as it is a struggle to keep one’s personal space and a struggle to prevent new passengers from entering the already fully populated train compartments. Like a river of steam, oil and steel, we proceeded down through the Nilgiris. The some three-four hour journey proved itself worthy with it’s spectacular views of the dense and lush vegetation, the faceless mountains and the scattered villages appearing as small clusters in the horizon. On the way the steam train would stop to refill it’s water, while even more grey monkeys would emerge and even more people would try to squeeze on. As we arrived in Mettupalayam, greeted by our driver, we had to play Tetris once again inside our 4×4 (I forgot to mention that we were eight driving a seven seater car) but this time we had to play much more delicately, as many of us soon became extremely car sick. Whether it was the vodka or some bad street food, I am not sure, however, it was the first time that I  had to vomit outside a car’s window at a speed of around 80-100 km/h – making Mats waking up puzzled, asking “Is it raining?!”

Karsten

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