India | Ooty: January 7-13, 2009

January 7th, 2008

This morning we left from Mysore when it was still dark… so yes, damn early! But it felt good to be out on the road again. This time, we were taking a cab (the driver was the brother of our auto driver/tour guide in Mysore). We’d heard from everyone that the drive would be very scenic, however slightly dangerous if taking the bus – tons of hairpin turns and bends up the hills towards Ooty. So we’re cabbing it. The drive would also take us through the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, the home of several wild elephants and tigers! We were looking forward to that, as we’d planned on having a Jeep tour of the forest before we continue on our way. On the way there, we watched the sunrise and passed by several villages waking up to their day. It was quite humbling to see the sort of simple lives people lead in these places; milking the cows, washing pots and filling them with water, making and having morning coffee; and the sort of simple tasks their lives center on. As we entered the wildlife sanctuary, our driver asked us to keep the windows rolled up for safety’s sake – not that we were really in any danger of being eaten by tigers. The roads in the sanctuary were really good and everything seemed well maintained. But we were mostly eager to see signs of animal life.

Soon, we were treated to one of the most beautiful sights ever – peacocks! These elegant birds were prancing about on the side of the road, strutting their beautiful tails and generally looking pretty. We’ve never seen them ‘in the wild,’ so to speak so it was quite awesome! As well, we saw several herd of deer. Yes, even these fairly mundane of horned creatures were quite elegant to behold in the wild. There was young and old alike grazing about, some with really elaborate horns. The tigers, wherever they were hiding, would surely just call them food! Finally, we got to the main office where we could book our guided Jeep tour. We saw several monkeys sunning themselves on the rooftop of the office, preening each other and generally rollicking about only as monkeys do. It felt cool to be right in the heart of a wildlife reserve like this. We then learnt there were no private Jeeps; only these large tour busses. Bummer! But still, it wasn’t that bad but we just had to wait till the next one came back and was able to take us. It was quite chilly in the morning and we just had T-shirts on. At this point, we knew we just had to brave it since we didn’t have any sweatshirts or anything warm with us.

Eventually, the bus arrived. It was a 20-seater or so and thankfully, there weren’t so many people going with us. We went right to the back so we had full reign of both sides of the bus. Once we got on our way, it felt immediately colder. We started on paved roads, the bus driver aware of where we’d find the animals. He’d stop whenever we spotted some, first with some peacocks crossing the road. There were two of them and they just looked splendid! Even though they didn’t unfurl their tails for a full display, they just were amazing works of nature’s art! We then stopped for some more deer along the way. Soon after, we started our drive along an unpaved dirt path deeper into the forest. Karthik and Penny both were on the lookout for elusive tigers, but no such luck yet. We were on a REALLY bumpy road and sitting right at the very back of the bus made it all the more ‘bumpity bumpity’ for us. We tried even squatting so our behinds weren’t sitting directly on the seats when particularly large bumps came up.

We then stopped and the driver urged us to keep quiet. Tigers, perhaps? No – it was an Indian gaur, a behemoth of a bullock with massive horns straying away in the thicket off one side of the bus. It quickly passed away and out of view, since the forest was so dense here. We continued our jarring and bouncy ride further into the forest, when the driver stopped the bus again. We’d just spotted a large bull elephant to the right of our bus. The big fella took an immediate interest in us and started coming closer. He was a beautiful animal, with enormous tusks and one of those strong foreheads. He came quite close to us and just stood there, sizing us up. Then, he began swaying from side to side and then trumpeted loudly, lifting his trunk, perhaps in protest to us invading his territory. After this, he even started stomping the ground with one of his massive legs. This was just such a thrilling moment for us! So up close and personal with this magnificent beast! We went trigger-happy and took pics galore. When the elephant came too close, the driver sped away lest we get tipped over. An easy task for this enormous creature, for sure!

We went at a slower pace, while keeping the elephant in our sights. We were slowly being followed as he came on the path taken by our bus. We went over a short bridge and past a bend in the track. Our friend continued to follow us. We were a bit further up along the path from him, so we stopped to see what he’d do next. And then something happened none of us expected. The big guy started charging at us!! We totally freaked out, but we loved it! He started rampaging towards us at full speed, wanting to teach us a lesson for stepping into his grounds. We were too busy taking a video of what was happening! At this point, the driver saw it prudent to speed us in response. Makes sense – the elephant wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. By the time the bus started moving away, the beast got quite close! It continued to chase us till it saw us move away at a much faster speed. We think he just wanted to make a point. After the episode, we could still see him in the distance looking at us. That was simply the best! Never could’ve planned for something like that; we could still feel the rush.

We kept moving along through the forest, hoping to see some tigers skulking behind a bush or near a watering hole… or somewhere! After seeing more herds of deer and bumping up and down for longer, and to boot, being extremely cold from our one layer on, we were looking forward to heading back. So, in short, no tigers but a very cool elephant encounter and some pretty peacocks! We left the park and a bit further away, we noticed a peacock sitting perched on a tree limb! It’s beautiful tail was just hanging from under him and it made for a wicked pic! Further up, our driver just stopped the car and asked us to roll up our windows quickly. He said he saw a tiger between the bushes nearby. As we were rolling up the window, we tried to spot it, but no such luck. We felt a bit gypped as we’d probably have seen it if we hadn’t been busy rolling up our windows. Ah… one of those Catch-22 moments!

Anyhow, we continued our way onward to Ooty, stopping at a small village on the way to grab some grub. The restaurant was just a small, low-key affair which was OK, but after eating, we really had to use the washroom. Yikes! We both took turns in the “Indian-style” shack and couldn’t wait till we reached our hotel, in spite of the wipes and all that we had. We could then see the Nilgiri chain of mountains in the distance as we were slowly going up in altitude. This was a major chain of mountains part of the long line of Western “ghats” or mountains lining the western coast of peninsular India. As we got nearer a tall mountain, we started taking fairly sharp hairpin bends. There were more than 30 of these before we could get to the top! We definitely felt glad we weren’t taking the bus! Nearer the top, the trees were much taller and the forests looked very pretty, reminiscent of something in the Rockies back home. We could see the many villas, hotels, and estates dotting the sides of the hills and lush fields of carrots, cabbage, and of course, tea!

After more mountainous driving and enjoying the scenery, we got into the town of Ooty (now called Udhagamandalam in Tamil). We told our driver the name of our hotel; however he suggested we check out another since he thought the one we’d chosen was pretty bad. This hotel was very near ours, so we thought we give it a see first. Karthik went to see the room, and came back making a face that spoke “Ick!” No way were we staying there, but seeing as this was supposedly better than what we’d chosen, we were now a bit afraid. We went to our hotel, the Meadows Residency, and while we were checking in, Karthik went to look at a room. It was terrific! What the heck was our cab driver talking about? The bathroom especially was spic and span. This, as we found out before we decided, was a newly re-modeled hotel and it looked like it. We were definitely staying! We were quite tired from our early rise and long day, so we just wanted to rest and crash for the day. But before, we thought we’d go get some sweaters or sweatshirts. It was chilly and all we were wearing were T-shirts. Our hotel was right at the heart of Ooty near the Charing Cross, the sort of focal point of the town. We went to a couple of shops and came out with a pair of sweatshirts we were satisfied with. We quickly came back and dozed off for the day.

We woke up later that day, hungry. Karthik went for a walk that night to put some moola in our Tamil Nadu phone chip and get some groceries like bread, butter, coffee powder, creamer, and such (which wouldn’t go bad in this cold climate). Also, he did some wandering around and found a large department store where they had a cool portable water kettle. He came back and then went back AGAIN to buy it, but decided to take an auto back. We liked our kettle immediately – it was a keeper for sure! After that, we ordered some food from the restaurant, which was not bad at all and just watched some shows, wondered about what to do for Internet (seeing as the only connection would be at the lobby itself to the hotel’s main computer – not even Wireless), and did some rough planning for the next days ahead. We just wanted to rest and catch up for now. So off it is to sleep again!

January 8th, 2009

So today we woke up late in our room, feeling a bit chilly. We were ready with a sort of list of complaints already for the manager. Didn’t know we had to ask downstairs to turn on the hot water first before jumping into the shower – found that out the hard way! There was no hot water kettle in the room to make our usual coffees – this was a hotel after all! There really is no circulation in the room in the form of an exhaust fan or air circulation that comes with the usual A/C that hotels have. Understandably, it’s a cold climate so there’s no need for air conditioning, but it just gets stuffy so we thought we could use a small fan of some sort. Also, there was no form of heating either. While our room is clean, affordable and spacious, all these things do make being in here somewhat uncomfortable. What’s more, they had advertized on their site that had Internet, but they had absolutely no form of it whatsoever – we had to physically take our laptop downstairs and connect it to the hotel reception computer’s Internet connection. And to boot, no complimentary breakfast! Plus we hated talking to management here about anything; it usually just doesn’t work in our favor because they don’t understand customer service and are very stubborn about it.

But we somehow finished showering and went to the reception and asked for the manager. We had a fairly lively and heated discussion, especially since he wouldn’t make a single concession to any of our complaints (no fan, kettle, or space heater); just kept on saying sorry and that it was under fairly new management. The only thing he could do was to allow us the Internet access whenever we wanted it. Argh – why are people like this here?! Fairly pissed, we just went for a walk towards the main ‘downtown’ of Ooty. As we started walking around, we felt a bit better. We thought to just make the most of being here – it was rather quaint as far as places went. There was very little traffic; mostly pedestrians. You could see most of the hilly terrain and the houses dotting the hillsides. Small streets ran in between blocks, increasing steeply to one side and the opposite on the other. Lots of little shops, restaurants, and cafés lined the main road we were on. We passed by the department store Karthik went to yesterday and we picked up some more supplies, including a decent kitchen knife. We continued walking and got hungry. We hadn’t really eaten all day, so Karthik spotted this place called the Ooty Coffee House and thought of giving it a shot. Inside, it was a small canteen-like atmosphere – very humble, low-key, and fairly dimly lit. Penny hadn’t fully recovered from the altercation with the manager, so was still feeling rather low. We were hoping the food here was good, since they had a lot of the stuff we liked – Dosas, Idlis, Vadas, and the like. Our waiter was a decent chap with a low-key attitude of his own, but was on the ball when it came to our food. It came fast and it was hot and it was delicious! We had 2 Masala Dosas, 1 Idli, 1 Vada, 1 Utthapam, 1 litre of Aquafina, and of course, 2 coffees, all for Rs. 115!!!! That’s like less than three dollars!! Wow! Mindblowing!

Karthik also went to check what was upstairs, as it may have been another dining room or something. It was just a large storage space, but there were this large stack of colourful boxes they use to pack sweets in. It was quite neat, so he took some pics. All in all, we were satisfied with our Coffee House experience and Penny’s spirits were up. So we continued along the main road till we came to a fork – we took the road to the right. It was more of the same, but then Penny thought of looking for a tailor since she needed to get a Sari blouse and petticoat stitched to wear for Guruvayoor. We entered a small market to one side of the road. Inside was a maze of shops selling all sorts of goods – steel utensils, dry foods, veggies, colorful plastic buckets, ropes, and everything domestic you could think of. We could also see the tall gopuram of a Hindu temple not far away. And we found a whole row of tailors! It was getting dark now and the fog was rolling in at upper elevations of the nearby hills, so we just picked a tailor and Karthik explained in Tamil what we needed; since we didn’t have the materials with us today, we’d have to purchase it tomorrow and drop it off with him. He understood, so we started heading back – on foot again. On the way back, we stopped off by a roadside Paan shack and we both got some. Wasn’t half bad! Tired now, we just got to our room and chilled the rest of the night. We eventually ordered some more food from the restaurant, watched some shows, and tomorrow, we’ll see what we do! No clue as of yet, other than the blouse/Sari stuff.

January 9th, 2009

Darn! We slept in again! So we got ready…remembering to call the reception to ask them to turn on the boiler for the shower. Our plans for today – buy materials for Sari blouses for Penny, and give them to a tailor for stitching; eat; hit an internet café to do some work and make Skype calls. We walked toward the downtown area again, and looked for shops that sell a particular material (synthetic crepe), but had no luck. This time, walking towards the market, we decided to take a left at the fork we hit yesterday. We came upon the Municipal Market; however these were mostly produce shops. We asked a policeman where the textiles/fabric shops where. After getting some basic directions, we continued further than we’d gone yesterday and finally, after having walked through many little streets in the market area, we came across an area that seemed to only have such shops. All clothing materials shops abounded everywhere. We got the material, and headed to the tailor we had met yesterday. After giving him all the materials and the Saris, we headed to look for something to eat. We took an auto back to a café we’d seen yesterday – it seemed quite cool from the outside. But, it was actually a bakery and they only sold some pastries and such. Disappointed, we walked back in the direction of our hotel and checked out a couple more places. At 6 pm, our options were limited. Most of the places were only selling snacks. Like fools, we hadn’t had anything to eat all day, so snacks would just not do. Finally we found a restaurant that could make us a Paneer dish and some rotis, so we sat down.

To our surprise, given the quite basic ambiance of the restaurant, we had some really tasty food! We also ordered some Paneer 65 (Fried Paneer with spices) and some soup. The Tomato soup is something to have in India for sure, and is Karthik’s favourite. Penny’s of course has to be Sweet Corn soup. Alas, the soups were bit of a disappointment. But we were hungry, so we scarfed it all down. The main course was Dal Kadai and rotis. The Dal Kadai was especially awesome! Full and satisfied, we walked towards the Charing Cross complex, a nicer mall area past the fountain and on the way to the Ooty Botanical Gardens, where they’d have Internet Cafes. On the way, we stopped for some coffee and bought some chocolates (sold by the gram!). There was also a funny kid manning a magician’s booth, selling little magic trinkets and trick items. He really wanted to sell us something and started showing off all the magic tricks ‘up his sleeve.’ We finally bought a deck of regular playing cards (which we’d been wanting for some time anyway). Cool kid, though!

One Internet café was having power problems and directed us to another one. So we headed over there. We must have changed computers a good three-four times, either because it didn’t have any USB ports, or was crashing due to pop-ups/spyware, or because the seating was too crammed. Finally, Karthik started doing his research for a project on one of the computers, while Penny called the parents using Skype on another. Having had a good convo with the rents and after Karthik finished his research; we headed back to our hotel. We bought some 3-in-1 pirated Hindi movies on the way, some Tamil song compilations, along with some chips/snacks. It was getting chillier and we were tired, so our hotel definitely sounded good at this time.

January 12th, 2009

The weekend was a blur for Penny. She had an upset stomach and the day and night on Saturday was spent by her puking and sleeping. Karthik did some work he had to and basically tended to Penny. We have been lucky that when one of us falls ill, the other is fine. However, we think the culprit was some of the food we’d had at the hotel’s restaurant just before the weekend. It didn’t seem ‘fresh,’ given that it arrived barely five minutes after we’d ordered it and it didn’t taste all that new either. We must have another chat with the manager, but we’re gonna hold off till the day we leave. Not too happy about that, cuz Penny was in a fair bit of pain over whatever she got. Blah!

But after having lost 2 days of our stay in Ooty, we spared no time in getting out today. We walked over to the taxi stand nearby to hire a cab. We mostly wanted to check out the Dodabetta Peak, the highest point in Southern India (8000 ft above sea level). A cabbie was free, and even though he had an Ambassador (not really the best for hilly terrain), we picked him and we were off. The ride up was awesome. We got to see some lush greenery, made up of some tea plantations and fields of vegetables that grow well in this climate. Lots of little houses dotted the hillsides and the locals seemed quite at peace doing their thing. Who could blame them? The sun was high and bright, so it wasn’t too cold being out. Further up towards the peak, the road was surrounded by tall coniferous trees and we could see glimpses of the valley to one side. It was splendid! Near the peak, we had to do a bit of a hike from the parking lot to the actual viewpoint. Vendors were selling their usual stuff, but also hot lentils and coffee for those who couldn’t take the cold. We spent some time on the peak and took in the views. We could see the town and the Ooty lake far off in the distance, and everywhere you looked, it was green and more green everywhere. We went climbed up to the watchtower they had erected, which had a telescope you could see things up close with. But the guy manning the telescope was kinda snobby, so we took a quick peek and walked back down.

Off to one side near the viewpoint was a path that led further into a forested area. We walked over for some more views of the other side of the valley. It was quite unique to be at this altitude and see the sort of mountainous landscape in a place like South India. While checking out the views and taking some pictures from here, a couple asked us to take their photo. Karthik did. And their little 2 or 3 year old son responded in an adorable voice “thank you so much!” We took out our tripod and took some pictures, and as that couple was leaving, their son again repeated to us “thank you so much!” So darn adorable!

We didn’t think of staying here too long lest we get bored and feel disinterest towards Ooty, so we headed back to the taxi, and asked him to drop us off at the infamous Ooty Lake. The ride down was equally pleasant, and we got some cool shots even though we were in motion. We arrived at the lake, and we asked the driver to wait instead of just dropping us off. Karthik got some coffee and we left the driver with a cup as well. We bought our tickets to enter the lake’s boat dock area. The place was packed with tourists and we had the option of canoes, paddleboats, or motorized boats. After much deliberation over how tired we’d be, we settled on the paddleboat – typical of Ooty Lake as it was! We got tickets for half an hour’s use of the boat and we set off on foot! I mean, by boat powered by foot. It was nice. We were surrounded by dense forests and we could just imagine the movie star couples flitting between the trees chasing each other coyly. Yes, Ooty was one of those frequent movie locations before budgets grew and crews opted for grander mountainous terrain such as Switzerland. After some time, we were getting a little tired, and so decided to stop a while to just be… and float about. Soon we started hearing some “plops”. As we looked around, we saw some fish jumping up out of the water… catching their prey! It was fun initially, but then they seemed to get too close to our boat. We decided to peddle back. As well, the charm was wearing off. All in all, a fairly ‘authentic’ Indian experience.

On our way back we stopped off to pick up the stuff from the tailor, and well… not all the stuff was ready! We picked up the ready pieces, picked up some take-away food from the Ooty Coffee House, and headed back to the hotel. It had been a nice day, but we didn’t want to tire ourselves too much (especially Penny, after having had a tough weekend). Tomorrow lies another busy day – a trip to Coonoor, famous for its hardcore tea estates.

January 13th, 2009

Today we went on our Coonoor trip. We had arranged with the taxi driver from yesterday to pick us up today to take us to Coonoor – a small town about 20 kms away from Ooty to check out some Tea plantations, and to experience the Toy Train ride back up. But first, we thought we’d kill some time at the Botanical Gardens nearby out hotel. We took an auto and explored the gardens for some time. Admittedly, such gardens aren’t our favourite activity but enh… it was something on the top things to do here in Ooty. The Gardens themselves were really expansive, covering a much larger area than we’d intended to cover. What was cool was that in the distance, we could see the hills confirming where we really were. We wandered about, checking out some weirdly shaped trees, some interesting flowers, and a greenhouse that contained absolutely nothing of interest. Having had no breakfast, we stopped for some snacks and soup… and coffee! We walked about, taking random pics and then left, exiting past the topiary section of the Gardens. The topiary wasn’t really all that impressive, with hedges trimmed in the ‘approximate’ shape of squirrels, elephants, dogs, and the like. Our taxi driver was waiting outside and we hopped in for the rest of the day trip.

As we headed out the city and drove steadily downhill, the views started to become absolutely breathtaking. The wide valleys were gorgeous – lush, green, full of tea plantations. We had to ask him to stop a few times so that we could take in the views. There was one point in particular – the Ketti Valley view where we could see an enormously wide expanse of a valley, where we even saw the train that makes its way uphill from Coonoor. It’s apparently one of the largest valleys in the world. This was one of the most spectacular vistas we’d ever seen, possibly on par with the hills around Machu Picchu in Peru. We got back in the cab and continued onward, passing by more nice vistas, quaint little hillside towns, valleys, and lush greenery. Near the outskirts of Coonoor, we turned around a sharp hairpin bend off the main road and made our way down into the valley. We passed by the Army campus, tall trees and large grounds everywhere. We reached our first point of interest, Sim’s Park. It was something along the lines of the Ooty Botanical Gardens, except it was much smaller and designed in several levels going down towards the main lake at its centre. It was neat to walk down, level by level, on a patch taking us past some more interesting trees and such. There was a huge monstrous tree called the Elephant’s Leg tree – well, it looked exactly like one! There were very few people, so it felt chill and peaceful walking around. We sat on a park bench just being and taking in the ambience. Some chillout music would’ve been perfect! We then walked around the lake, over an arched bridge, and looked at some more flora. There was a large bamboo grove, which looked quite beautiful and all species of crazy Palm trees. Towards one of the park was a tall, expansive tree with tons of branches, all of which seemed to have some weird stuff hanging off of them. Upon another inspection, we saw that they were all beehives! There were dozens of them everywhere, thankfully quite high up and out of immediate harm’s way. We hung out for some time, but then we started getting bored so back it was to our cab. We were now on our way to another vista point, the Lamb’s Rock.

The drive there was just amazing! On the way, we went by some of the most beautiful tea plantations we’ve ever seen. Coonoor is famous for this and we can clearly see why! As far as the eye could see, there was just carpets of green everywhere, the sort of textured carpet that belied the fact that it wasn’t just grass. We HAD to stop and roam through the plantation! We felt like those tea-pickers walking the narrow paths separating the many rows of tea plants. This was damn cool! If anything, the entire trip to Ooty was just “made” right here. We hung out for some time, but then our driver said we’d better get on our way. But we had to stop by here again on our way back! We’d also seen tea pickers on the way here, and we wanted to take pics of them as well. The drive around here was crazy – narrow roads, parts of which went into dense forests of tall trees and other parts that wound around sharp turns and corners, changing elevation suddenly. It was all too cool, plus we were surrounded by tea plantations! Our necks were hurting from just trying to look in all directions. We got to the Lamb’s Rock lookout point, but we learnt we had to walk through a forest for some distance before we could actually ‘look out.’ There was one of those pretend-to-be-guide people who warned against wandering through the forest by ourselves, suggesting we’d get lost or attacked by animals. Pssh! Who was he trying to kid? These guys just want your money, so they just prey on your fear or desperation or both. But we weren’t feeling either, so we just walked on our own. The path was uphill the whole way, so we were a bit winded by the time we arrived at the point. And yeah, we didn’t get lost or get attacked by tigers. At the vista point, it was pretty cool! Tall mountains lined the panorama, while massive valleys stretched between them in all directions. We were just at one of these mountains, looking out on one side to the sprawling lowlands where the next town, Mettupalayam, and then the city of Coimbatore lay ahead. The toy train made its way daily uphill from Mettupalayam to Ooty, slugging forward at 15 km/hr. We were just going to catch it from Coonoor to return to Ooty. That reminded us to start heading back, so we could catch the train that left at 4:30.

So we headed back through the forest, stopping by one secluded vista point (wasn’t really a point as much as it was a sheer drop-off with no guard rail!) to admire this other perspective on the mountains and valleys. We got back in our cab and started our way back. On the way back, we stopped by the tea estates and did some wandering around, snapping away photos like crazy. Karthik went over and took a lot of pics of the tea pickers, mostly old ladies with huge baskets dangling behind them by a rope tied to their heads. It was all too postcard-like and it was just perfect! Definitely the high point of our Ooty trip. The green of the tea leaves was just so rich that it made everything in sight look lush and fertile. We took a bunch of self-portraits as well! Back we went along the crazy road, but now we were quite hungry. We made sure we had time and stopped by a ‘good’ restaurant. We ordered and ate quickly, scarfing down the Naan, Dhal Makhani, and Raita – all of which were quite good. We especially wanted some ‘fresh’ food after the disappointing quality at our hotel. We drove to the train station in time, and paid the cabbie for today’s services. We’d indicated to him we wanted to drive onward to Coimbatore tomorrow, so he asked for some extra money for tonight. Penny felt wary, but Karthik relented and paid him anyway. This would come back and bite later!

We bought our tickets and went to the platform. There, we saw two ‘toy trains’ – trains with basic wooden carriages and small, steam locomotives. It was quite cool, so we took in the novelty of it all before we crossed the train tracks and went to the opposite platform to our train. The other train started to leave and it was quite a sight. It was all quite open concept and windows were entirely optional. Eventually, our train departed and we got excited! On the way there, we were slowly climbing in elevation towards Ooty, passing by several small villages, including one named Lovedale! We stuck our heads out the window a bunch of times, taking self-portraits with the train in the background as it curved around a bend. The sights were pretty remarkable, the same sloped hills, the collections of tiny dwellings and stepped cultivation fields on the hillsides, the green valleys, the tall trees, and a whole lot of eye candy. This little trip of an hour and a bit was totally worth it. While the train took its own sweet time, we never got bored. We had a whole ‘cabin’ to ourselves, so we switched from one side to the other to admire the passing scenery. Eventually, we got to Ooty and we felt refreshed.

We took an auto back to our hotel from the train station, picking up Penny’s sarees and blouses along the way. That night, we were just relaxing and chilling at our hotel when we got a call from our taxi driver. Karthik went down to check it out and saw the driver had brought a friend. This new guy was apparently supposed to drive us to Coimbatore. Karthik also reminded the driver that he’d be given some extra money from earlier today, having claimed he needed it for his family. That would be adjusted accordingly in what we’d pay to get to Coimbatore. Now, since we actually needed to get to Thrissur in Kerala, further from Coimbatore, Karthik asked how much it would be to get there. Rs. 3500! To Karthik, this seemed like a bit much, but he wasn’t completely sure that we were being overcharged. So they’d come tomorrow morning to pick us up. After they left, Karthik walked over to another taxi stand not far from the hotel and asked them how much it’d be to get to Thrissur. Rs. 2500. That’s more like it, so Karthik just decided on the spot for these guys to take us tomorrow morning. He went back to the taxi stand where the scammers were and found our driver’s friend who was supposed to take us tomorrow. Our driver had gone home already, but we still needed our extra money from him. So Karthik just said he needed to talk to him tomorrow without actually cancelling our plans with them. If we did, then might as well forget the money! So we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

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