Wanderer series- Tea hunters

Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

Introduction

It was summer of 2008, it was only few months since I came to Bangalore and joined Microsoft. 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 Kumar and I 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.

Last minute call

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.

Road exploration

We were on the road ,we saw patch of broken path way . Kumar had intuition about that patch, that it goes to a road called NICE road that connects to Mysore road. He asked me, if we shall go that way . As usual, I nodded in yes. We were then on that patchy road, which finally led us to NICE road. But It was not completely built then. Following it, we reached Mysore road to Mysore. There is famous south Indian restaurant called Kamath , on Mysore road. So our new plan was to have our tea there. After we reached kamath.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.

Changing destination

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.

Getting right hotel

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.

Lazy romantic morning

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. 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 . We 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 , 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 , 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.

Conoor

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.

Return Journey

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 lies in small moments, not in overstaying them or over living them. So we moved on.

Someone felt tired and bored

We were on our way back and were near Mysore . 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 . She wanted to reach home and relax. Kumar and I started some obnoxious talks to entertain the ladies. The talks about the famous brigand of that area, on the fly made up stories to entertain them. My wife finally got so bored by it. She bit me on my arm so hard that I could not say a single word that moment . I 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.

Wanderers

I was in 8th standard and my father who used to work for Indian Railways, was posted in Jammu which is part of J & K state. I am the eldest son in the family, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. But this is not about my family. This is about a short trip I had, with my friends to a forest near by Jammu. Our school sent 5 students including me and four other students to speak in a function about preservation of forests, Trees and wild life. I was too young, to understand lot of things but I knew few things, for example this function was organized by father of one of my friends, who was going with us. In fact my friend Vikas and his brother Vicky who was also my friend, was also going to attend the function. Vikas’s father was Forest officer of that forest. We had to travel from Jammu to that forest. Next morning, we had this function. All the students spoke about the topic. Once function was over, I stayed back with Vikas and Vicky, while other students went back to Jammu.

It was a nice bungalow in the middle of the forest. Since its long time back, so I don’t remember exactly if that was office cum home stay of Vikas’s Dad or just residence. Anyways, it was a nice bungalow with beautiful garden. Vikas’s Dad, I used to call him uncle, they had already got the food ready by the cook. We had lunch and after that Me Vikas and Vicky started our little walk towards the woods. It was dense mountain forest and October noon are usually pleasant, so we kept walking in the forest lanes, admiring the beauty of jungle and mountains and talking about girls. It sounds funny now but even in 8th standard, we thought that we are grownups and can have girlfriends or thoughts of having girlfriends. We discussed about girls we knew, during those days and what other boys are doing to make them friends and how a new girl in school looks so beautiful. Wishing they were with us on this forest walk with us. At times our talk’s diverted to how brave and macho we were and how any one of us could beat gang of 3 to 4 guys.

While having our talks, we went to thick forest and at a point we found that we were on a dead end, it was kind of a cliff and when we looked below from that, we could see huge rocks and little stream of water flowing. There was another huge mountain cliff opposite to us. There were huge trees on this mountain end that looked like a cliff. On our side one of the huge tree had fallen, one end of this tree was on our side and its other side was on opposite mountain cliff, which was around 15 to 20 feet from this cliff where we were standing.

It was a very interesting situation. Vicky is more adventurous and suggested that we should go across using the fallen tree as its acting as a bridge between two ends. Then we looked below to understand the depth or height. It was scary, but Vicky was adamant to cross it and reach the other side. We finally had to agree with him as Vikas was elder to Vicky and he could not let him go alone and I could not leave my friends. So we decided to cross it using the fallen tree.

I don’t remember exactly who went first on the tree, one by one we sat on the tree as standing on it was scary and started moving slowly towards the other end. As we moved in the middle of the tree, one look below towards the gigantic rocks gave me jitters and stopped looking below and kept moving forward slowly. As we reached near the other end, the tree started moving slightly downwards with our weight and that scared the hell out of us, it seemed that it will fall and we will fall with it. But luckily it only moved slightly low and with our gradual movement it was moving lower and we actually could not see how properly this tree was landed on the other end due to leaves and branches and bushes on that mountain, So we were not sure how safely this tree was landed on this mountain as it was moving slightly low with every inch we were moving towards it. I remember at this moment when tree was moving low I saw a small thick plant or a bush on the edge and planned to grab it the moment I reach near it. So when I reached near that end, while the tree was moving slightly low with the movement, I grabbed that small bush and pulled myself up. I asked vikas to use that as well. We used that to pull ourselves up. I again looked back and thought god saved us that day as tree was not very well landed on this side and over movement on it was causing it to shake and it could have fallen and we could have fallen with it on those rocks.

We again kept going the way we were earlier, talking about school, girls and macho stuff. We then sat on a tree and talked for a while. Then decided to return and used another route on our way back to forest bungalow.

Looking back at this small unplanned adventure trip, I remember it as a sweet memory of my child hood. But there is another thought,I have a 3 and half year old son and when I imagine my son in my place doing something like that, I feel how my parents would have felt, if I would have told them what I did on that trip with my friends. But there are too many such incidents in my life and may be in everyone’s life, so I feel, Beauty of life is in exploring it and not sitting on sofa and watch bear grills do Man vs wild stuff.