Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"It's so beautiful!"

If I had a rupee for every time I heard that phrase or said it myself this weekend, I could buy a delicious meal of naan and chicken tikka masala from Myx. We really enjoyed a very full weekend up in Ooty- a hill station a couple hours away.
At 5:45am on Thursday morning the batch was ready to load up the jeeps and head out. The mountain road is full of switchbacks, but at every turn you are rewarded by a view more beautiful than the last. Trees and sheer rock faces give way to the florescent green of carrot and potato fields and rows upon rows of tea.
The magnificent view!
  In the morning we visited an NGO called Freedom Firm which rescues and works with girls who are forced into prostitution in India. Check out: http://www.freedom.firm.in/ It was great to hear their stories, meet some of the girls, and even purchase some of their beautiful hand-made jewelry. Next we drove down the mountain on the other side to go to Mudumalai Tiger Reserve for our tiger safari! Driving into the reserve we spotted several wild elephants in the bush which was a complete surprise! Then we boarded the "invisible" camouflaged bus for the real safari… managed to see some rasam deer but not much else; maybe the bus wasn’t actually invisible after all! Afterward we saw the mahout’s or keepers feed their tame elephants which was pretty cool.
Elephant camp
Friday morning we headed out to our next destination: Avalanche camp! On the way the view became even more spectacular when we rounded a curve and saw a lake stretched out on the valley floor! We stopped to take some snaps, and then noticed that one of the jeeps had a flat tyre…which was fine because it meant we could explore the tea field right across the fence!
Wandering through a tea field
When the roads became too rough to pass, we were dropped off to hike the rest of the way to the camp- another 6 kilometers (almost 4 miles) up and down steep rocky and muddy and slippery terrain which was quite fun! Arrived in the beautiful campsite and spent the rest of the afternoon kayaking in the lake, sunning ourselves on the rocks, hiking to a waterfall and just enjoying the beautiful wilderness. That night after a wonderful time of singing around the campfire, we headed out on a night hike which was a little unnerving but incredible to see the brilliant night sky! We tried to get some sleep in our tents that night despite the cold mountain air.
Avalanche camp site
Saturday was another early morning- we said goodbye to the friends we had made at the campsite and the beautiful view and hiked the 6km back to our waiting jeeps. Back in Ooty we visited a tea factory where they showed and described the long process of sorting, drying, and grinding the tea- you can bet we all have more appreciation for each cup of chai we drink now! In the afternoon we had the privilege of visiting a Toda tribal village where they warmly welcomed us in. We learned more about their community, played with the kids, and admired their beautiful embroidery work.

Trying a cup of chai at the tea plantation
By the time we got back to our guest house in Ooty, we were all fried! That night we enjoyed a delicious dinner of pizza and donuts and then crashed by 9:00pm! Sunday was a free day with many options of things to do. Some students visited the Botanical garden, attended a church service of mostly ex-pats who live and work in India, or shopped along the streets of Ooty. Most everyone found their way to the chocolate shop that sells homemade chocolates in order to load up for the next few weeks before heading back down the mountain.

We arrived home tired and dirty but happy from our fun and full time in beautiful Ooty! Check out more photos on our Facebook page!

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