8 Dec 2015

Picking tea

More of my Passge through India.From Coonor in the highlands it was a very long full day drive to the tea growing country and the hotel in the hills well beyond Moonar. The first part of the journey was the descent from Coonar.To describe the mountain road down from Coonar as dangerous is an understatement. Blind hairpin bends,sheer drops with little or no guard rails and a road full of suicidal drivers and riders makes for an interesting experience. Indian drivers have two objectives -firstly to reach their destination in the shortest possible time and secondly to pass anyone on the road in front of them. If the pursuit of these objectives requires them to overtake a bus or truck- even if they are driving a bus or truck themselves- on a blind hairpin bend then they go for it.

After the descent it was a long drive across a plain to Udumalalpettai through the biggest windfarm I have ever seen. Many of the turbines are individually owned and in the villages there were small shops advertising themselves as turbine maintenance and repair specialists.
Lunch in a vegetarian restaurant in dusty,chaotic Udumalalpettai was an interesting experience as the locals obviously rarely saw westerners and they certainly had not had one eat in that restaurant before going by the way they stood and watched me eat my dosa. I passed on the local tap water graciously and went for the bottled.
Then it was a long climb through a major national park where allegedly there are many tigers. I saw a herd of buffalo and quite a few monkeys but of course no tigers.

The road into Moonar is spectacular as it passes through steep hills totally covered in tea plantations.They stretch as far as the eye can see. Now the guide knows that tourists want to photograph this sight so the vehicle pulled over and I dutifully took a few photos knowing only too well that they are totally boring and useless.Back in the vehicle I deleted them.

The next day was one of the best of the whole trip as in the morning I went on a walk with a guide down the hill from the hotel,through spice plantations and down part of beautiful Bison Valley named after the bison which used to roam there until 20 years ago.The valley is a major spice growing area and it is reasonably affluent by Indian standards.The walk was spectacular and yielded a few photos including some of the local kindergarten and a school.

Late morning the heavens opened but I travelled by a Mahindra jeep over the hills on rough tracks to see the tea plantations close up.Fat chance. The rain was pouring down down and the clouds were very low. However on a hilltop road I spotted a group of tea pickers hard at work. Photo op! Out of the jeep and into the tea plantation. Further down the hill we encountered a large group of pickers walking home. We stopped and and they all climbed aboard laughing and smiling. We dropped them near their homes way down the mountain.The poor girls had a long walk to work each day-perhaps an hour uphill and then a whole day of tiring manual labour in the damp with just a wrapped around plastic sheet for protection and then a long walk home. And yet they were all smiling and laughing as if they did not have a care in the world and perhaps in their world free of social media,smartphones,apps etc they did not.

Here are the photos of the community of Bison Valley and the tea pickers.

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