Saturday, December 30, 2006

Now we're talking!

My travel agent is going to email me my itinerary for Delhi, so I managed to find an internet station in Ooty. Maisnon and I split up in Mysore, so I'm officially on my own traveling now. It was good to sort of ween myself of depending on others, though my driver still takes care of a lot of talking (Chai's dad made sure I had a guy who speaks all three languages of the three states I'm driving through, and English).

Speaking of driving, it's all you imagine and more. In Bangalore it was like a giant bumper car arena with cars moving every which way. The lanes are merely suggestions, typically ignored (despite awesome signs like the one of ants walking in a row that said, "If insects can do laning, why can't we the humans?"), the horn is your turn signal, danger warning, move-it-i'm-coming-through signal, and occasionally an I-just-feel-like-it signal. Even more horrifically are the many many motorcycles and scooters, where babies ride with no protection other than their mother's arms. I've gotta say though, driving in Bangalore was nothing compared to the drive of blind, hairpin turns to Ooty today. The road is a swiss cheese of asphalt with potholes that D.C. couldn't dream of rivaling (Martin, should I get a photo of those, too, along with the buses?). I can't imagine doing that with a bad back; I'm sore as it is. The best part is the passing, or "overtaking," because no one can handle driving behind someone else, so we're constantly driving into oncoming traffic. I'm dead serious. We'll swing over out from behind a large tour bus, only to stare dead into the headlights of another tour bus, realize we better hit mach speed in order not to get crushed between them, then swing back into our lane as the bus just misses swiping our front bumper. Good times.

Oh - I saw jungle animals today! We actually drove through the jungle I'll be staying at in a few days, and warmed up with a herd of spotted deer munching grass next to the road, who politely allowed our car to stop so I could take a photo out the window, until another guy decided to step out of his car and scare them all away. Then we ran into the monkey colonies. I got a few semi-blurry shots, but I did engage a staring contest with a red faced guy sitting three feet from the car as I stuck my head out the window as we passed. We're both curiosities it seems.

Then, THEN! Elephants! Between wearing a sari to a Hindu wedding and seeing a herd of elephants six feet from the car, I think my trip to India might already be complete. I even have a two second movie of them, only because I had my camera on the wrong setting at first. I should see more in a few days and I do believe I'll get to ride one, as well.

I saw some nice sights in Ooty today, Doddabetta Hill (the highest hill in south India, I think the sign said) which had a lovely view of the plantations around Ooty and the brightly colored houses lining the mountainside, and then the state garden, which was both a garden and a giant park for Indians to stroll through on the weekend and have picnics. I was asked twice to pose for pictures with strangers. The second guy is going to be sad to note that I'm blinking in that photo with his young, and probably future American doctor, daughter.

While at the hill I got my first enjoyment of alone time since I've been here. I bought a chocolate ice cream (ready-made!) and sat on the steps facing the view below. I have to admit, as much as the Indians think I'm such a curiosity (while I was eating a man came up and asked, "How are you? Is your camera digital? Where are you from?" and then his wife and entire family shook my hand while grinning at me), they're also very much a curiosity to me. So much more so than the other countries I've visited, the cultural differences are very noticeable and sometimes inexplicable. I'm forever amused by the no smiling in photos rule, even though they seem to love posing for them (seriously, everywhere I go I can't avoid getting in the way of a family taking a shot of each other). Maisnon and I were at some gardens last night and since it was more of a gaudy fountain park than a garden, I started taking photos of women in pretty saris. So, I can't be all, "why do they pay so much attention to me?" without really getting it myself.

I suppose that's a long enough update. One thing about traveling here is that it's pretty unsafe for me to do things at night, so I start early in the day, but around 6-8pm my day's over, so I have all the time in the world to read, blog, and write in my journal. Guess I'll go hit up dinner next.


At 12:33 PM, December 30, 2006, Blogger Sandra Schwab said...

Heather, it sounds as if you're having a wonderful time. May the rest of your trip be equally exciting! Happy new year to you!

At 10:02 PM, January 03, 2007, Anonymous Paul said...

ha! the driving style of Indians is something that really must be experienced to be believed. we have tried to capture this on video many times, but the literal "nanometers from death" experience simply cannot be reproduced. one second you're bound for a head on collision and the next you're driving on the wrong side of the road, beeping your horn at an auto rickshaw who is, at least ostensibly, in his own lane! good luck!


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