Ooty

Ooty, or Udhagamandalam, is a hill station in the Niligri hills with a steam-driven narrow gauge train going up to it.
Man playing a flute in the hills near Ooty, Tamil Nadu. These men were herders of water buffalo and played the flute to pass the time in the fields. Man playing a flute in the hills near Ooty, Tamil Nadu. These men were herders of water buffalo and played the flute to pass the time in the fields. Traffic sign, Pondicherry. There are so many different ways that Indians defy traffic regulations that the police decided that they needed to begin at the beginning. (Pondicherry is nowhere near Ooty, but I don't think I'll be taking enough pictures here to make it worth its own location).
Goodbye picture with the French women, take two. If you want something done right, you have to press the shutter release yourself. Herve looking out of the window of the miniature steam train to Ooty. This is the miniature train to Ooty, which makes the six-hour run and back every day that it isn't raining too hard. The lurching locomotive burns coal, and rockets up a column of smoke that smears the sky above it.
Indian man looking out the winow of the Ooty train. Indian man looking out the winow of the Ooty train as it goes over an old stone bridge. Herve yet again looking out the window of the Ooty train. Herve yet again looking out the window. You can see the twin columns of coal smoke and steam coming out of the locomotive; this is looking backwards, the train was pushed by the locomotive so that the passengers are spared the fumes.
The locomotive of the Ooty miniature train. It was necessary to stop three times to re-water the engine on the way up to Ooty; here it is in all it's steam-panting black iron beauty. Man filling the Ooty train's locomotive with water. Man filling the Ooty train's locomotive with water; the hose was leaking prodigiously, as you can see.
People waiting outside of the Ooty train at a watering stop. People waiting outside of the Ooty train at a watering stop. Priya, a Toda woman, preparing dinner in her village in the Nilgiri hills near Kothagiri. Jump forward two days; I've gotten to Ooty on the train, went trekking for a day (er, hiking, but they say trekking in Europe and India), and then decided to go with the same guide and two French women for an overnight stay in a Toda village, one of the traditional buffalo-herding tribes of the Nilgiris. Priya, the eldest daughter of the family (but only about sixteen or so) preparing dinner for us.
Toda woman preparing dinner in the Nilgiri Hills, near Kothagiri. Another picture of the same woman. Home in the hills: a traditional Toda house, a Warthetyas or Perzilas. This was home for the evening in the Toda village, a traditional Toda hut called a wartheyas, or alternatively a perzilas. Our guide, Rajiv, built a fire inside ("no chimney, but the smoke will go through the cracks in the roof"), which almost asphyxiated us at the beginning of the night. We put it out as soon as he was gone.
The lifeblood of the Toda: the water buffalo. Water buffalo milk is the basis of a lot of the Toda's vegetarian diet. While we were in the village, we ate and drank water buffalo milk in every stage of processing or fermentation: yogurt, milk, and buttermilk. Some of the males that we saw wandering around had three foot horns, but evidently they are all tame enough that they can herd them in and milk them: five liters per cow. Angelique with water buffalo skull and machete. The two belles françaises waited in a glade near the temple, where there was a water buffalo skull. Bored french woman, skull, stir gently and this is what you get.
L to R: one of the Toda men, Rajiv, and Subbu. Rajiv was the main guide, who we were actually paying; Subbu was another guide from an adjacent area who wanted to know more about the areas where Rajiv guided; and the Toda man just walked with us for a little bit. "Dont show this picture to the Tamil Forest Department," joked Rajiv, "or we will lose our jobs." So if any Tamil Forestry people are reading this, Rajiv was a good guide, don't take his permit, ok? The street, Ooty. This picture has no compositional merits whatsoever, but I wanted to show what the average street looks like in Ooty: little yellow three-wheeled autorickshaws in the background, the standard way of getting around town; two Hindustan Motors Ambassadors cars on either side, which have been manufactured in the exact same way for the last thirty years or so; people selling stuff on the side of the road; power lines, advertisements, motor scooters, and people everywhere. It was good to get out of town for a few days.
Goodbye picture avec les françasises. Goodbye picture avec les françasises, take one. There were a lot of people walking by, like the fellow in the foreground, and the man I nabbed to take it was a bit rushed. The brakeman on the last car of the Ooty train, on the way down. A few things are changed on the miniature train for the way down: the locomotive is placed at the front of the train, and there is a brakeman at the back of each car to help the engine keep the train under control. I bought a first class ticket to see how it was different, which turned out to be a wise decision; first class is at the rear of the train, as far from the thick coal smoke as possible. This man would turn the levers on a wheel brake, a chain brake (there was a third serrated rail, and each car had a chain that locked into it), and then there is the emergency vaccuum brake, which is the yellow pipe on the left hand side.
Yours truly, looking out the window on the way down from Ooty. Yours truly, looking out the window on the way down from Ooty. Me again, and you can see Krishnam behind me. Me again, and you can see Krishnam behind me in the shadows, the Chennai "IT guy" who translated the brakeman's Tamil for me and spoke saying "like" every fourth word.
Herve, the French doctor, looking out of the window of the Ooty train. The good French doctor, looking out of the window of the Ooty train one more time. Toda man and his daughter, Nilgiri Hills. This is a Toda man, who danced wonderfully for us the night before, holding his daughter.
Toda village elder, named Onir Katan, preparing dinner for us with another Toda woman. Here the Toda village leader, named Onir Katan, is preparing dinner for us with the help of another Toda woman. Onir was a very sprightly 58 years old, with thick coconut-oiled hair; he would reguarly ask us questions in Tamil, with two English words. Sometimes we understood, more often we didn't, but both of the guides could translate. Toda men-only temple in the Nilgiri hills. The two Frenchwomen (Céline and Angélique) were asked to stay behind for a moment while we -- the two guides and myself -- went to visit this temple, which no Toda woman (supposedly) has ever seen. Once a year a Toda holy man lives here for a month with a buffalo for sustainence, and at the end of the month all of the surrounding Toda men show up and there is a day-long ceremony of some kind. My guide, who was a Christian of Toda descent, was vague about the purpose of the ceremony; "Not much thinking in this Toda day, mostly coming together to celebrate and worship." The temple was in a depression with a wall around it, so I couldn't go any closer than this to take a picture.
Céline with sambar deer antlers.. Rajiv, the guide, had picked up a pair of antlers from the ground a few hundred meters before the temple glade, and Céline poses with them here. The world-famous magic mushroom. Both marijuana and hallucinigenic mushrooms grow wild in the hills; Betchen Oberdorfer, who was the counsellor for the Kodaikanal International School, said that it was something of a problem, since they are so readily available. It's kind of a blurry picture, but Rajiv pointed this one out to us in a clearing near the Toda men's temple. "I have eaten these five times," he said. "Way too much."