Wine For The Woman Who Made The Rain Come
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Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India
I woke up early in Bandipur and my driver and I left for Ooty at about 6 am, shortly after the road through the tiger reserve opens. It was a long trip, which crossed from the state of Karnataka to Tamil Nadu and took me high into the mountains. I was warned to dress for the cold, which turns out to be a laughable concern for someone more used to a continental European climate.
My first stop was the botanical gardens, which I found to be lackluster. Very few of the flowers were in season, the grounds were poorly maintained, and some of the water was standing rather than flowing as designed. It was quiet and cool, however, and a nice way to spend the morning.
I had lunch at the Lake & Boat House, which had some amusements and rides that I didn’t ride, and also had paddle boats and powered boats for rent. A class from a local all-girls high school was there, and clandestinely took selfies with me in the background. A family gave me a “butterscotch fruit”A quick search yields only western baked goods. that was unusual in that it had a thin but inedible peel, a center with lots of little black seeds in a goop, and a mushy flesh. It was good, but messy and a lot of work.
I visited the park atop Doddabetta peak, which, as the highest nearby peak, has phenomenal view of both Ooty and the valley on other side of the ridge. On the way back into the main part of town I stopped at Benchmark Tea Factory.
Ooty is surrounded by mountains, with large tea plantations covering entire mountainsides. One of the chief employees gave me and my driver our own tour of their little plantation and took us onto the factory floor to see the machines close-up and to watch the women sort and pack the tea. In addition to an educational time, they also provided samples of green, black, white, and ginger tea.
I had a late lunch at a restaurant in the town center, where I met Tom and Sue, two older British people on their fifth trip to India. I had a nice lunch of paratha and grilled paneer and vegetables, while they shared a masala and some naan. After an hour we parted ways and I walked around downtown Ooty and the market. The most dangerous part, as always, was crossing the street.
At 5 pm we left Ooty and returned to Bandipur. The way down had less traffic, both factors conspiring for a much shorter trip on the way down. I had dinner at the lodge, and met a nice couple from California, their two children, and grandma, who had just arrived that day. I told them about Ooty, and they told me about their first and incredibly successful trip into the forest. The next morning we went into the park and ate breakfast together before checking out and saying goodbye.
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