So I realize our blog has been a little bland due to the lack of goings on here in good old Yelahanka, but let me assure you that our weekends stray far from tame games of monopoly and firework extravaganzas. On Friday night this past weekend Poornima herded five of the iSTEPpers onto a sleeper bus bound for Madurai, her home town. For three of us (I bet you all can guess which three!) it was our first time on a sleeper bus which vaguely resembled the Knight Bus from Harry Potter (reference courtesy of Madeleine’s friend Lester). The name sleeper bus is quite misleading though. Sleep eluded most of us whether it was because of what seemed like hundreds of bus stops in the most random of places or the relentless wind from a neighbors open window. Though sleep was made difficult, I have to say that just the fact that we were being transported on beds made up for any missed sleep. After ten hours of bus travel, the six of us arrived in Madurai, groggily piled into a taxi and were rudely awaken by a delightful rap song with enough pounding bass to rival a rave. We arrived to Poornima’s home, where her mother and father greeted us warmly with a homemade breakfast of puri (Avia’s favorite dish). It was a delicious start to what turned out to be a most amazing day.
After a cuddle puddle on Poornima’s bed, we all mustered up enough energy to climb back into the bumping taxi to be driven to our next destination: Kodaikanal. Five of the six of us were fast asleep while Vivek sat plugged into his computer (thankfully for a different reason than SABT programming). We managed to remain asleep for the most part and were only slightly disturbed by the occasional giggle from Vivek as he indulged in yet another childhood favorite that he had yet to see, Monster’s Inc. As soon as we hit the twisty, winding roads heading up into the mountains, inevitably our nap session was interrupted by a nice ab workout as we tried to remain in our own seats. Again, the lack of sleep was totally worth it because the view outside of the window was like a scene from a movie. Picturesque, rolling hills covered in lush vegetation. A beautifully serene lake lazing at the base of the mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking. We made our first stop at a viewpoint, whipped out our cameras and fit right in as tourists enjoying the view with a refreshing splash of coconut water drunk right from the coconut.
After exhausting our touristy talents of taking pictures of the view and of the cute, little monkeys in search of food, we headed back into the car for some more winding roads and the occasional bus hurtling head-on down the winding path. The ride in itself was quite an adventure. Our next stop was at a rushing, white waterfall. There were upwards of thirty street venders selling what seemed like to be the same four or five varieties of goods: homemade chocolates and fried peppers, small toys, cowboy hats, and baby dolls in plastic bags that were a little too realistic. There was also a small station similar to the balloon-dart carnival game except you shoot the balloons with a shotgun filled with small metal pellets. In other words, this fun little balloon game would be deemed a liability and safety hazard if placed on the side of the road in the U.S. Nonetheless, it served for great amusement among our iSTEP team, and I got to showcase my shooting talents that my dad and I have been refining for the past year. After some scenic shots, Avia got to feed a monkey, and then we were off again climbing higher and higher. We passed a pink engineering school tucked away in the side of one of the mountains to which Vivek and I decided we’re going to transfer. Unfortunately, I think my parents would be a little less than thrilled to hear that I’d be leaving CMU for a tiny engineering school in the mountains of South India.
We shortly came to a lake way up in the mountains where we all mounted horses and bounced along the edge of the lake. Not completely satisfied with the horse journey, Poornima and Vivek decided to rent a tandem bike ride for a little while longer. It took a little bit for our Tech Team lead, Poornima, to get the hang of steering, but after a slightly shaky start they were off, leaving Aditya and the three power puff girls in the dust. At this point, the combination of lack of sleep and high altitude started to creep up on us, and so we decided that a break for lunch was in order.
Bellies full and re-energized we resumed our journey up the mountain towards the view point of all view points: Suicide Point. Before our final destination, we took a detour through a pine forest made famous by a Tamil movie. The trees were towering and slender and swayed at the gentlest touch. They were numerous and almost set out in a grid-like pattern. Hungry for adventure, we all hurtled down the tree-covered hill, through a clearing and down a path to a small, secluded waterfall. The trickle was difficult to discern from the singing of cicadas around us. I convinced everyone to crawl a little further into the forest and we came to another clearing overlooking the dark, smooth face of the small waterfall. It was hard to believe that we were all hiking through mountains in India, halfway across the world from where I call home. It was thrilling and absolutely incredible. We made our way back to the car and finally to Suicide Point where you could see the mountains for miles.
It was a long, tiring day with incredible adventures, with wonderful people, and even though I am absolutely exhausted I would not have traded the experience for anything in the world, even sleep.
The adventure continues! Read Madurai: Part 2