India - March 24, 2008
<Note: This was the day before my 29th birthday>
Namaste! So I wasn't going to write until I got back to Dubai, but I had the most amazing day of my life today and couldn't wait to share it. Forgive me if I get overly sappy, but I guess 4 days in India is all one needs to turn into a hippie
I've spent a good portion of this trip in the car but today was a full on vehicular journey. Driving in India is insanity at the best of times. There are people and bikes and motorcycles and buses all over the place. Today, add to that huge potholes, mud, rocks and cows...cows that leisurely sit in the middle of the road with not a care in the world...I guess they know they won't be lunch so they're relaxed. The roads are narrow, you're on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road, there are no street signs or stop signs and everyone passes at will even when huge buses are coming full speed, head on. Seriously...utter chaos and completely fantastic (if totally stressful) fun! Driving in India should be labeled an adventure sport.
It took us well over an hour to go 20km on a road that was maybe once a road and is now just portions of pavement, rock, mud, holes and cows. This road is also the curviest, windiest road so every two seconds Anthony lays on the horn to warn whatever huge bus or car that is around the bend that we're coming...not that there is room for more than one vehicle between the mountain on one side and the huge drop off into the jungle on the other...but somehow we always seem to pass. The whole time I was thinking...this is great, 4 wheeling through the mountain jungles in a tiny car in India. Then we start getting into the tea plantations near Munnar. Acres and acres and acres of tea everywhere...it is so beautiful...looks like the hedge mazes you see in old English country gardens. Just as I think that the scenery can't get any better, around another curve comes the most beautiful mountain vista I've ever seen.
We stop at a resort overlooking the tea plantations for lunch...then hop into a 1973 Indian jeep (British made of course) and proceed to full-on 4 wheel off-road through the tea fields to the summit of a mountain, 8,200 feet above sea level. When I say off road, I don't mean through some leisurely wooded area you might see on the commercials, I mean through a dirt track cut through the tea bushes, winding up a huge steep mountain, total mud, huge never ending rocks, even across small streams. There are no guard rails of any kind, just about 6 inches of mud before a 5,000 foot drop down the side of a mountain covered in tea plants. The jeep has no windows, no seatbelts and a very tiny door. It was not for the faint of heart or those afraid of heights. I have to say though, I was not in the least scared, just exhilarated, and I loved every single bumpy, neck jerking, back breaking second of it (and it lasted about 3 hours!).
Two days ago I was on a houseboat in Appelley which is one of the lowest points in Kerala, about 200 feet below sea level. Today I was at one of the highest points. The views were so stunning that words cannot describe them...breathtaking, glorious, majestic...none of them do justice to just how amazing it was. At the top of the mountain is a tea factory where 130 families live and pick and make tea. It is the highest tea plantation in the world. It is organic, hand-picked and manually processed...I have to say it was the best cup of tea I have ever had in my entire life...I felt like I had been transported back in time...the jeep I came up in is a classic, the buildings all have signs saying "built in 1939," the tea plants are from 70 to 90 years old and the houses and villagers look like they were pulled right out of a history book. For the past two days driving through the mountains and jungles I've been secretly humming the Indian Jones them song in my head (sad, I know) and every hour or two it seems to be more and more relevant...but it wasn't until driving up this mountain side that it really applied to the sense of adventure and history I was feeling and the atmosphere of the moment I was in.
My day came to end driving through even more stunning scenery as the sun was setting over the mountains. Just thinking about how amazing and beautiful the day was brings tears to my eyes, seriously...I have never felt so happy and at peace and full of joy and love as I did today. Kerala is known as "God's Own Country" and I truly see why...it is heaven on Earth. I can understand why people come to India to find spirituality or themselves or whatever it is they are looking for. You can't help but feel close to nature and be amazed at how kind and friendly and wonderful people can be. Nothing fills you up with joy like having every cute little kid who passes by waving and smiling and calling hello to you. Traveling is truly what life is about and it really makes you see your own place in the world in a new light. I am very thankful for everything I have and for all of you, family and friends, old and new. I know it's Monday so you might be having the Monday morning blues, but I say forget your worries, put on a smile, enjoy something or someone you love and make today a great day. This Monday will always be unforgettable to me...it was the perfect way to end 28 and I'm excited to start 29 and the new year ahead where I plan to have as many more days like today as possible.
All my love,