One minute I turned the Enfield’s engine off to add to the silence of the moment an elephant and it’s baby heaved their shadows across the road, less than an hour later I was surrounded by a bus load of gibbering Indians, while to my side Reb lay on the dusty outer edge of a hairpin bend next to the spinning rear wheel of our stricken bike. One minute I was discussing Calvin Klein and Davidoff with a young Muslim, less than an hour later, without warning I was attacked from behind by a gibbering old man. One minute I’m flagged down by an ego-driven cop, less than an hour later I’m gibbering exaggerated scenarios at Reb, and we’re on the run. All this, in less than twenty-four hours. And twenty-fours before this? One minute I was staring Gandhi in the eyes, and less than an hour later I was discovering ancient hill tribes.
The delightfully nicknamed town of Ooty also bears the title, ‘Queen of the Hills’ and like all the other hill stations in this fascinating region, it owes it’s existence to us perfectly lovable Brits as a cool retreat from the formidable heat of the Indian summer. With the Enfield safely tucked away, Miss Reb and I took a whirlwind tour, with the first stop being the original reason for our visit. The Thread Garden of Ooty was etched on my pillions wish-list as far back as Christmas. If you hadn’t guessed, it’s a garden. Made of thread. So convincing are the tiny handwoven flowers, that wandering the length of the marquee began to remind me of when my parents used to drag me and Tetris down to the garden centre on a Sunday morning. Another example of art imitating life was found at the other side of town, where to our surprise - and disappointment - Wax World had brilliantly recreated Bapu (Gandhi) himself, along with various other only-famous-to-Indians with the piece de resistance being a man slumped between his crumpled scooter and a bottle of beer, clutching his severed arm. He looked armless to me. Get it! Armless, harmless! Umm, yeah. Gandhi was pretty good. After a quick hug with the unnecessary hairy green mascot we sped off to the Tribal Research Museum for a fascinating insight into the various hill tribes of the Nilgiris. Some of the tribes appeared almost African in appearance, and their primitive tools and living quarters could of easily convinced me they were. Despite everything, it’s the taxidermist that gets my vote, for giving me the sheer comedy that Wax World denied me. The sellotaped python was priceless. The day ended with a stop at the most impressive botanical gardens to date, a 160 year old beauty dappled in saris and families enjoying the bloom and an anticlimactic 20 million year old fossil tree.
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