03.01.2017 - 04.01.2017
As a foursome we knew we had to put some hours in behind the wheel. An early start was the answer and when the alarm went off at 5:30 Laura and I were already awake.
Al was having some electrical issues and so was already investigating when we got to Tony.
Today was the mountain climb and climb we did; up to 2286m out of the smog and into the rarified atmosphere. Sharp mountains rose vertically with trees hanging at precarious angles. The road was steep, at times narrow and full of hair-pins and switch backs. The gears were worked and several times we came a cropper looking for a second that didn't seem to exist. I hope practice will make perfect. Two thirds of the way up we stopped to give both the cars and us a rest. Our stop was at a little Chai Cafe and the guy that ran it was a pleasure to watch. Chai and coffee were produced in a ritual of long pouring milk to gently froth it. The result was something special and enhanced by the view.
We came to the town of Coonoor which was a stop at around 1900m on the way to Ooty. It was stunning scenery. Tea terraces carpeting the upper slopes of sheer mountains. Silver Oak trees rising out amongst them as sun screens, frost protectors and water retainers like farmers overseeing their crop. We managed to get a tour around Highfield Tea Factory and were shown white, green black and flavoured teas as well as seeing a fairly primitive set-up for eucalyptus oil extraction. Needless to say we swapped some rupees for tea leaves. Their white tea was £125/kg!
We continued on to Ooty, winding through forested roads. Hair raising traffic aside it was blissful motoring. The mountain retreat of Ooty was actually the home if a hill tribe called the Toda, we would be told later, it wasn't until in the early 1800's the British chap John Sullivan an ex-clerk of the East India Company 'discovered' the area and began buying the land from the Toda and planting, amongst other things, tea. Others soon followed and Udhagamandalam (Ooty) was born.
Oncewe got through Ooty the going was more favourable. Our average speed went from around 25 to 45kph and we ploughed on. Straight through a tiger reserve! I'm of the belief that there are more speed bumps than tigers in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. We did see an Indian elephant, lots of deer, bush pigs and monkeys. The only tiger to be seen was Tony who was to be seen chasing a peacock named Pasha through the park.
An easy run into Mysore/Mysuru left us at the Aishwarya residency. We nipped over to see Ollie and Squirrel at the Radisson before having a feast at a street stall to compare notes on a superb day.