Tag Archives: monkeys

Yercaud Hill station and Meeting Friends

We got up and were served breakfast by Sellappan’s mam. As it was a Sunday it was the time for non-vegetarian food, and Sellappan’s mam had already been out to the market to get fresh meat and fish. Breakfast was mutton in gravy and idly, of course it was delicious.

As Mohan is going away on a business trip this week, he came to Salem so that Kowshalya could stay with his parents. Kowshalya gave me a yellow flower to put in my hair. We went to his family home and were of course given something to eat (pomegranate) and I spoke with Mohan’s mam. She has a treadle sewing machine and likes to make things, just like someone else I know! Mohan’s father is a chartered accountant, like Mohan, and the family business is conducted upstairs in the office, so clients can enter from the office side, but dad can come back to his house with no commute necessary!

Mohan drove Kowshalya, Sellappan and I to Yercaud, a hill station outside if Salem. There is a road all the way to the top of the 5000ft hill, and the route shows the view down to the ground through a few trees. All the way along the road there were monkeys sitting on the concrete, and a lot of them seemed to be eating tomatoes. When we got further up the hill we discovered a family car stopping at each monkey to give them tomatoes. We paused too further up and Sellappan gave a monkey an orange, and it quickly ran away with it into the trees.

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We stopped and climbed a small metal watchtower for a better view, and about twenty huge yellow dragonflies zipped around us in the sun. The ground was starting to look very far away! The strange thing about the topography is that mostly the land is totally flat, and then steep hills spring out from nowhere.

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As we climbed, the road started to bend around in hairpins, and signs told us how many we had passed through, counting hairpin bend 1/20, 2/20… All the while the ground below us started to get lost in the haze.

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We suddenly came to the top and after only passing a few cars and buses on the way up, it was surprising to see how many people were already there. There was a small town at the top of the hill, with a lake with pedalos and lots of people selling food and souvenirs. There are old plantation buildings, few schools and plenty of houses, restaurants and hotels too.

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We drove to the very highest point where there was a small temple cut into the rock like a small cave. We had to bend double to get inside, and were joined be another family. Once we came back out everyone had food in their mind, so we went back down to the town for snacks, including mango slices sprinkled with chilli powder and salt, pineapple slices, and egg bajis. There was also ‘American Style’ corn on the cob, which was scorched over a hand cranked burner. I took mine without chilli, just for a change! We ate this feast sitting in the car overlooking the lake, just like a British winter picnic!

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At another spot we stopped and Sellappan had our names written on a grain of rice as a souvenir. There was also a proper old fashioned candy floss cart, which I never would have expected to find there! Naturally some of that also had to be bought. We began our descent, and paused at some picturesque spots for snaps. We saw coffee, oranges and pepper growing, as well as the ubiquitous monkeys. It was very strange to see them all just chilling out by the roadside!

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When we got back down we stopped at Mohan’s again and there were people making flower garlands in the driveway, and Kowshalya fixed one of these to my ponytail too. Lots of buds and flowers were being strung together to make them. I had seen a lot of women wearing these flowers, but didn’t know about the strong, sweet smell that comes from the flowers every time they move. They were also very cool on the back of my neck.

The next stop was home for lunch – though it was already 5pm and we had been munching the whole time! We came home to one of Sellappan’s favourites – fish fry. The fish was a kind of river carp, and had been sliced perpendicular to the spine, covered in spices and deep-fried to a deep orange-red. It was very tasty, but I had a bit of trouble with the bones. The same fish had also been prepared in a green-brown gravy with a smooth flavour. Of course,  we had it with idly while the TV played Tamil movies.

As I had had a problem with my flip flops and contracted “shoebite” (a brilliant word for when new shoes rub or blister your feet) we stopped again at Sellappan’s friend’s shoe shop for some new ones. The shop was packed as it was Sunday evening, and so there wasn’t much time for chatting. I did discover that one of Sellappan’s friends is visiting my area sometime next year though!

My Tamil is certainly not good, but I have learned a very important word – enough! Everywhere we go there is always some kind of food, and this is always true when visiting others! On our way to visit one of Sellappan’s tutees we actually crossed paths with them (“small town” of 850,000 people) and upon arriving at their house we had honeycomb sweets, as well as nuts and fruits and tea. Sellappan tested his students both in French and English while we were visiting!

Naturally when we got home it was time for food, so after another meal with Tamil movies, Sellappan packed up his bag to go back to Bangalore. I’m staying here in Salem with his family until he comes back on Friday for more trips!

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Lalbagh Gardens, Window Shopping and Work

This morning we woke up just before dawn. Sellappan called up Mohan and Kowshalya to make sure they were up too, and we arranged to meet at their place. In the early morning Bangalore is always enveloped in thick fog, which starts to burn off as the sun rises. By the time we got to the gardens there was only a slight haze left, and the temperature had already risen to about 23C

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Morning Haze

We arrived as the early morning sporty types were getting started. There were a few people playing badminton despite the breeze. There were also lots of middle aged men waving and swinging their arms about energetically and doing stretches. At the entrance to the park there is a large “hill” which is just exposed granite. There were plenty of people stretching and lying down sunbathing (hazebathing?) and climbing around on the rock.

We walked went to the flower show first, which was made up of sort of floral topiary. The flowers had been formed into shapes between 4 and 7 feet high. One section was composed of giant colourful fruit shapes with plastic facial features and limbs sticking out. There were also representations of vegetables and flowers.

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As we carried on through the park we went past a rose garden which was all fenced off – apparently people can’t help but steal roses as there was a sign to say no plucking was allowed. We walked up towards the lake and passed a huge clump of what looked like bamboo. A screeching noise and lots of crashing foliage revealed the presence of a monkey. Actually lots of monkeys. They were chasing around in the high branches while a man at the base of the clump was occupied with training one of them. He was talking to the monkey and giving it food, but I’m not sure what it was doing in return. He beckoned us closer, saying “No danger, he is my friend!” Surprisingly we declined his offer…

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No plucking!

When we got to the top of the hill where the lake was, there were lots of white cranes, something that looked like a heron, and the odd white pelican skimming over the water and floating about. No ducks though! There were lots of chipmunk-like creatures running about too. Sellappan called them squirrels, and to me they seemed like a cross between chipmunks and what I would call squirrels. They were light brown with dark stripes on their backs, and tails at least as long as their bodies which they stuck up in the air like dodgem car aerials when they took off running along the ground and immediately dropped if they paused.

We followed the path around to an enormous tree which was about two hundred years old. It was a white silk cotton tree, and apparently it can be used for making pillows and mattresses among other things. It had enormous sail-like roots which started from about ten feet up the trunk, and spread to the ground. The canopy of the tree was huge and was full of green parrots. The dodgem rodents were having a great time running all over the tree trunk and diving down between the roots.

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Silk Cotton Tree

Just as we were on the way out, we came across a movie set with people dressed in period costumes. Then from nowhere a huge line of army cadets marched into view, with notebooks in hand. The stars joined in with the marching line, much to everyone’s amusement!

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Spot the odd one out...

Breakfast was next on the list, but Mohan was due at his office by 9am so Sellappan and I had idly and vada (a potato doughnut) with sambar (a thin orange-coloured warm spicy dip) and a cold green coconut-based dip which I have forgotten the name of. This is a very standard breakfast and is delicious!

We went back to the flat for a cheeky nap to offset the early start and then Sellapan dropped me off at a mall while he went to work for a few hours. I looked around the mall for a while before going to Costa for lunch, just to see what it was like. I had a spicy veg roll thing, which wasn’t particularly nice!

Next I went to Sellappan’s office (on invitation of course) and spent some time looking around the campus, which was very green. The campus has a cafeteria, gym, badminton and basketball courts and a learning centre. I met lots of Sellappan’s colleagues too, who were all very friendly. Overall it seems like a very pleasant and relaxed place.

After Sellappan had had a quick game of badminton we went to Punjabi Times with Momo, Camilla (who is from Romania) and her son Aryan. This was a themed restaurant which was very nicely decorated with sumptuous cushions and soft furnishings. The walls were painted and inset with pieces of colourful ceramic and glass, and the lighting was dim. The food was excellent too, we started with a deep green soup of coriander and mint, which was very cooling. We followed it up with a mix of chicken dishes, including tandoori style chicken, with roti and garlic naan. For the first time in a week I ate with a knife and fork which was actually very strange!

I was asleep within about five minutes of getting into bed.