So many new and wonderful sensations! The idea to do it first popped on and into my head, I think, whilst on a train in Kerala. The instant I thought of it there was no doubt that I had to do it. I just knew that it was gonna be really nice. So, I decided that I would wait till I’m done with teaching, then I could mark my grand exit from B’lore and start of my mystical magical travels with such a momentous and wacky action. So, sure it looks a bit (maybe more then a bit) funny… but I regret nothing!
Well, I’m done with teaching, ‘case you didn’t figger that out. Left for Ooty with Shalini on an impulse, with 10 minutes planning and packing. Ooty is friggin’ marvelous. It’s simply deliciously cold up here at 7,350 feet about MSL. The train ride up into the mountains was more than enough alone to make the whole journey worthwhile.
[Editor's Note/Warning: The following information might be a bit too much for everyone except my dad.]
“Asia’s steepest and longest metre gauge Mountain Railway is the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) situated in the Nilgiri range of mountains. This mountain railway covers a distance of 45.88 Km from Mettupalayam to Ooty with the help of a unique rack and pinion system built specially to negotiate the steep gradient of 1 in 12.28 (i.e. the train climbs up 1 foot for every 12.28 feet of forward motion).
“The route of this mountain railway starts from the plains at Mettupalayam and negotiates the steep gradient, passing through 16 tunnels many of which are unlined, 250 bridges and 216 curves to arrive at Udagamandalam (Ooty) situated at an altitude of 7350 feet (2205 meters) above mean sea level.
“In the year 1885 the Nilgiri Railway Company was formed with a capital of Rs.250,000 and in August 1891 the construction of the hill railway commenced. This metre gauge hill railway line from Mettupalayam in the foothills of the Nilgiri range to Coonoor situated at a height of 6000 feet (1800 metres) above mean sea level was completed and opened for public traffic on 15th June 1899. The line was later extended to Ooty from Coonoor in the year 1908 at the cost of Rs.244,000.
“The unique rack and pinion section (right) of this railway line extends from Kallar and ends just a little distance before the Coonoor railway level crossing. The average gradient on the rack and pinion section is 1 in 15. The rack rails consist of two toothed steel bars laid in a double row 44mm apart and 64mm above the running rails so that the tooth of one is directly opposite to the gap of the other to ensure that the engine pinions do not work off the rack while negotiating the curves. The entry to the rack is effected by a specially designed entry tongue laid in special channel sleepers fitted with bow springs and connecting links which is finally connected to the rigid bars.
“The engines are always attached in such a way that they push the coaches while going up and pull the coaches while coming down. Each coach is provided with a brakeman who independently operates the hand brakes and the rack brakes on whistle codes obtained from the engine driver.
“The ‘X’ class locomotive used on this railway line are tank engines of ’0-8-2′ type with 4 cylinders of compound type. The high-pressure cylinders work on the adhesion wheels while the low-pressure cylinders working on the exhaust steam of the first two cylinders work the rack system.”
Much of the motivation for going to Ooty was in search of paragliding. We found the paragliding place, and the guy who ran the company seemed really really cool and it all seemed great, and much cheaper than anywhere else in the world they do it. But, they no longer are allowed to fly anymore. The local government has decided that it is too dangerous and would be too much of an international problem should some tourists land in the forest and The Bandit kidnap them. Yes, this is the same Bandit as mentioned before when I was at the way other end of the forests. This Bandit character sure gets around. The paragliding guy said that it’s estimated that he’s killed more than 100 people, and hundreds of elephants, and has been on the loose for 12 years. It’s suspected that there might be someone in some high place protecting him, maybe for poaching money or something equally corrupt.
The bus ride back to Bangalore went well, and was an hour and half faster than it was supposed to be. Truly one hell of a miracle for an Indian bus. And, on top of that, I slept for most of 6 of the 7 hours. I hope that I’m getting back into the hang of sleeping on busses; I used to be able to do it really well by the time I left Brazil. Maybe I just slept so well because of the mad bike ride I went on. Climbed many hills and flew down many valleys and saw some really far-out scenery. Terreced farms, colorful little villages populated with colorful and very excitable villagers. I think they don’t often see someone stupid enough to brave the unpaved and steep roads in such thin air on a bicycle. I saw a mountain I really though might have a great view from the top. On my way up I found some really crazy trails for mountain biking. It’s a good thing the bike I rented wasn’t so much built for that kind of torment; much more fun that way. I sort of lost the trail near the top. Leaned the bike against a tree and dived into the bushes. Something about the foliage up there, but every single plant dead or alive has thorns. As I’ve said before, it’s not an adventure if someone isn’t bleeding by the end of it. Almost to the top I was reminded of a conversation from the night before which I had been blocking from my mind the whole time. I had met a guy who told me he was a forest officer, so I asked him where one might find good trails for mountain biking. “No, no. We don’t allow two-wheelers or bicycles in the forests. Only specially licensed jeeps. Very very dangerous. Elephants and tigers are there.” As much as I want to see a tiger, my discovery of the skeleton of I’m guessing a deer who had met a sad end gave me some very vivid mental images of packs of tigers hiding in the bushes about to pounce. Then I thought of The Bandit. And I looked around and realized I really was kind of far out in the forest. Time to turn back. Obviously I kept the skull. Can’t quite figure out what to do with it yet…