Wanderer series- Tea hunters
It was summer of 2008, it was only few months since I came to Bangalore and joined Microsoft. Three guys came together from Delhi to Bangalore to join Microsoft on same day. I, deepak and Kumar chose flats in the same building, it was a new city so we preferred to stay close. All of us were newly married i.e. three newly married couples. In this story, Deepak will not be seen , as Deepak does not smoke, reader will understand what I mean after reading it. Back then, I used to smoke and Kumar was a great source of cigarettes. As usual women do not like cigarettes and its smell, so we use to find excuses to have a smoke. One of the excuse was Tea, yes a weird excuse of having tea and cigarette together, justification was that we usually have cigarette with Tea, so our logic ,cigarette is a side kick of Tea which was what we wanted to have.
We were in night shift those days, one day on Saturday morning, when me and Kumar came back from office, Kumar called me and asked me if I would like to go for a drive for a tea (which meant cigarette on tea shack after a long drive) and yours truly is always ready for such a proposal. Obviously we will be joined by the ladies on this tea hunting drive and we loved that too, I won’t lie.
I asked my wife to get ready as we were going for a drive with Kumar, to have tea on some road side shack. I was already in the same dress in which I came back from office. Kumar and his wife were waiting for us in their car. We lived near a very well connected road called Bannerghatta Road, famous for IIM Bangalore and Bannerghatta national park. So plan, was to go on this road for a long drive, which leads to Bannerghatta national park and have tea on any road side tea shack and obviously the smokes.
We were on the road and we saw patch of broken path way and Kumar had intuition about that patch, that it goes to a road called NICE road that connects to Mysore road, he asked me, shall we go that way, as usual, I nodded in yes. We were then on that patchy road, which finally led us to NICE road, which was a new highway road, but not completely built then. Following that road, we reached Mysore road, which leads to Mysore. We knew there is a famous south Indian restaurant called Kamath, known for awesome Dosas and Idlis , on Mysore road. So our new plan was to have our tea there. After driving for another 40 KMs, after Ram nagar which is famous for movie sholay, we reached kamath. You need to take a U turn, as this restaurant was on the other side of the road, but before taking U turn, we saw sign board saying Mysore 100 KMs. We asked ladies, what they say about seeing the famous palace. They could not believe if we were serious about it and agreed to that. They thought we were joking and will take U turn after some time.
After driving for another 40 KMs, we reached mandya, which is a smaller city then Bangalore , we found ATM there , withdrew some money for travel. Till that point, ladies thought we will take a U turn and get back to Bangalore. But now, they realized that we were actually serious about going to Mysore. We took a small tea break , ensured ladies that it will be fun.
However , when we reached near Mysore, we saw a sign board that said OOTY around 160 KMs from Mysore. I asked Kumar, what he thinks about this 160 KMs. As always, he loved that thought and announced that we were then going to OOTY, which is a famous hill station of south India. It was almost 12 pm in the noon and it was so tempting that we decided to take the road for OOTY after reaching Mysore. Kumar was pretty confident that in another 2 hours he will cover 160 KMs and we shall be in OOTY around 2pm.
After 80 KMs from Mysore, towards OOTY, we found a restaurant which was just before the Bandipur forest and national park, we had another short break and had lunch there. Then, we went through this awesome forest, where we could see few wild animals as well. After another 50 KMs we reached Masingudi forest, which is in Tamilnadu and after another 20 KMs we reached famous 36 hair pin bend steep mountain road. Kumar is a good driver and these are really painful bends but he smoothly drove us and we finally reached OOTY around 3pm.
It was really cold there, we searched through whole mountain town to get a good hotel to stay. After checking different hotels in all categories, we picked a luxury hotel and got suites on the name of British Kings and Queens. By this time, it was almost 5pm, we rushed towards the OOTY Lake, for boating. Our phone batteries were dead, we could not use the cameras in the phone. So before hitting the lake, we found a shop in the market selling the non-digital camera. We finally had few clicks on the pedal boats. It started raining after some time.
By 7pm, it was chilling evening , we did not bring any winter clothes with us, as we originally planned for a long drive to have a tea. We then shopped for winter clothes in OOTY’s small market , finally got some relief from that chilly weather. After wandering around in OOTY’s market, we went back to hotel and had dinner. To my surprise, the dinner was very well cooked, all the dishes were authentic north Indian dishes, which was unexpected in southern India.
I woke up to a very beautiful morning, it was a beautiful view of the lake from the Hotel’s garden. Hotel garden itself was very beautiful. This hotel was surrounded by Niligiris, on a mountain top overlooking OOTY’s town and its lake. As I mentioned in most of my travel write-ups, best part of my travel is waking up in a hotel and dialing room service for a nice hot tea. So I ordered my tea, my wife is not so found of tea, she just watches me, having my tea during such moments since our Dalhousie trip, our first trip as couple. At times, we get into that romantic talk, which makes those mornings even so much more beautiful. I was enjoying my tea with my wife and our sweet talk, talk about our dreams and this little very well planned trip, I got knock on the door, it was Kumar, he was enjoying the morning in the garden with his wife, we also joined them in the garden and took some photographs with our new old fashioned non-digital camera.
Although, in such cold but beautiful mornings, I’m usually lazy and love to lay back and enjoy but it was Sunday, last day of the weekend and on Monday we had to be in office. We decided to get ready and have breakfast quickly and leave for conoor, which is nearby beautiful mountain town. Again, Breakfast was also very well cooked and hit our taste buds well.
We were all in the car quickly for conoor, soon we were in the middle of conoor’s Tea gardens. All those mountains covered with Tea plantation, is a treat for the eyes. We visited some well-known points, clicked photos stopping at any beautiful location we found. Driving through those Tea gardens was more beautiful than the famous crowded points. We then decided to get back, as it was already noon and we had to travel some 400 KMs to get back to Bangalore.
On our journey back to Mysore , we stopped at a hill point, it seemed it was in the middle of clouds, there was a tea shack there ,serving various types of masala, cardamom and other flavored teas.
We had different flavors of tea and smoked too. It was such a wonderful experience, in the middle of the clouds, with my friends and my beautiful wife. My heart did not want to go anywhere else but I also knew, the beauty of beauty lies in small moments, not in overstaying them or over living them. So we moved on.
We were on our way back and were near Mysore and it was around 7pm and all of us were really tired. My wife, although loves to see the places with me, but hates to be on the road continuously on a single stretch. I could see her tired , wanted to reach home and relax. Kumar and I started some obnoxious talks to entertain the ladies, talks about the famous brigand of that area, telling some stories, on the fly made up stories to entertain them. They listened to that for some time, my wife finally got so bored by it, she bit me on my arm so hard and for so long that I could not say a single word that moment and silently suggested Kumar to not to go on with those stories.
We continued traveling even after reaching Mysore, We had dinner on a Road side dhaba, dhaba is a typical Punjabi restaurant that serves Punjabi food, at times this keyword has also took us to restaurants which were nowhere near to be a Punjabi dhaba and their Food was nowhere near to Punjabi food. But on Mysore road, one can find some good dhabas as well. After dinner, Kumar pushed accelerator and got us home and stopped by another Tea shack to have a tea and a smoke.