India: A Bus to Ooty

After our adventurous bus ride from Goa to Hampi, I was even more excited to be taking another bus from Mysore to the Western Ghat hill station of Ooty. Several people had told me the town was beautiful – the “queen” of the southern hill stations – and so I had hoped that what I was sure would be a long, nauseau filled day would be worth it.

The day started with a 30 minute late pickup (not too bad all things considered) and a soon to follow attempt to have us vacate our seats and move to the very back of the bus by claiming that where we happened to be sitting was somehow, magically, reserved. (By “reserved” they meant that a gaggle of young men were getting on the bus and apparently all wanted to sit together in the front – we must have looked like the easiest couple to displace) The attempt didn’t work, and we kept our windshield view.

An hour and a half into the trip we had gone a total of about 10km, which was apparently far enough to justify a chai (tea) stop. I obliged and took a 5 rupee (10 cent) cup of what seemed to liquid sugar with a shot of tea on top – delicious! Now, totally hyped up on my sugar and caffeine, I was ready to settle into my “reserved” seat, listen to some NPR podcasts, and enjoy the ride. My plan, however, was thwarted. Only 30 min (another 10km) later was breakfast — otherwise defined as a 20 min stop in a bus parking lot to grab some chips and more chai, and to watch the cows, people, and monkeys mingle amongst the dust and trash piles. Now doubly caffeinated, I was anxiously tapping my feet as we rolled along at what seemed to be a better clip, until (you guessed it!) stop number 3 at a whopping 2 and half hours (the whole trip was only suppose to be 3hrs) and maybe 30km (out of about 250km) into the trip. This time a silk store and (hold your surprise) chai stand were on the menu. Where we ever going to get there?

Another 30 minutes slowly passed until we all scuffled back onto the bus. This time, I hoped, maybe we would make some progress. And boy we did! From here on out it was as if we had entered a rally car race. We were cruising and swerving and honking up a storm. No more chai stops on this adventure! We were on our way. We passed through what was marked as a national park, but instead appeared to be more of a major trucking route than anything else. I saw my first “elephant crossing” sign. We stopped to check out a deer. And soon we were in the hills, white knuckled and core engaged while trying not to be thrown out of our seats as we made our way up 36 (they were numbered) hairpin turns. Not to worry because each had a reassuring center line (on what was probably only an 8ft wide road) and a posted reminder about the emergency number for the closest ambulance service.

Luckily, we made it all the way to Ooty and found a small oasis at the YWCA up the hill from the bus stand. In the end Ooty itself was intruiging, but it wasn’t everything I’d dreamt of (I kept walking around asking “beautiful”?). At least it was an adventure, and, even more than beauty, I think that is what I need right now.


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