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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

From Wellington, NZ to Wellington, India

A New Zealand tourist writes about his Wellington (located near Ooty) experience in a NZ magazine. Some of the scenes will take you directly to a Balu Mahendra movie:

An aged herder, who speaks excellent English, proves a marvellous source of information. He's proudly retired from a supervisory position in the tea industry and explains that leaves must be taken to the factory, treated with steam, withered and oxidised before they end up in a cup. While we talk, we wander uphill behind the cows. From the top, he points out a factory in the distance beyond the carpet of tea bushes. It's one of many in the Nilgiri Hills, where tea begins its transformation from something that looks like camellia leaves to the beverage we love.

The tea gardens are a lasting legacy of the Raj. British plantation owners sold their properties to Indian companies in the early 1940s when they saw independence's writing on the wall. Not much changed except the nationality of the owners: the plantations are still called Glendale, Sunnybrook and Pencarrow, the managers still live in British-style cottages and speak English with plummy accents.

The next day I wait for an hour for the train to Ooty, 21km away, before someone tells me it doesn't run on Sundays. But the wait is lovely. I sit in the sun on the grass and watch monkeys frolicking on the station roof and children playing cricket on the green near the stream. I study the wildflowers that, because we are at high altitude but in the tropics, are a strange assortment: magnolias, gladioli and daisies bloom together.

On Monday, the train arrives as scheduled. I see it puffing up the valley, belching smoke, and feel a fizz of excitement about a steam-train journey, but, alas, it's only an old diesel engine in bad need of maintenance. The train ambles, whistling volubly, through neat tea gardens and forests, and around the edges of wide valleys with hamlets as cute as Wellington. We pull in at Lovedale and Ketty, where I could stay at the railway station retiring rooms for 30 rupees – $1.50 – per night.

5 Comments:

  • LOL :)

    it's like landing in paris in chennai.

    By Blogger Sheks, at 4:40 PM  

  • Kaps,
    Ah, what nostalgia. I'm reminded of some of the coffee estates that I've visited in Coorg and Kerala!
    Do drop in and take a look at my tourism post, Kaps.
    Cheers,
    Ravi

    By Anonymous Ravi, at 7:07 PM  

  • @Sheks,
    There is a world of difference between Parrys and Parrys Corner

    @Ravi,
    Will take a look at your tourism post soon.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 8:22 PM  

  • Our Heroes and Heroines claim their holiday spot is NZ and he liked our Ooty. Strange. India is the Best.

    By Blogger REFLEX, at 12:21 PM  

  • // Not much changed except the nationality of the owners: the plantations are still called Glendale, Sunnybrook and Pencarrow//

    shame on us...
    Namma aalunga thaan pEra maatha vidradhu illayE...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:41 AM  

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