Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Munnar, day 3; misty sunrise

The morning was still black as night. I felt my way down the stairs and hopped the locked gate at the entrance of the guest house. Durga, my driver (it's usually a woman's name but he was too burly to worry about it), was there waiting. I wrapped my self in a thin cotton tie-dyed Indian blanket I'd picked up on Koasan Rd, in Bangkok, and shivered as we sputtered off. I couldn't make out what direction we were headed but I didn't really care, too focussed on thinking warm thoughts, remembering Palolem Beach in Goa.

After an hour and a half of driving, I wasn't sure if I was still shivering or if the rattling of the rickshaw was what was making my teeth chatter. The temperature was getting comfortable, though. We stopped at a nice looking house, where he pointed to a path leading up the slope and told me, "There, go up. Quickly."

I followed a path up the sharp ridge until the slope, slippery with dew, got too steep to continue, but what I'd come to see wasn't at the top anyway. I turned to see the mountain sweeping down into a sea of misty clouds far, far below. A burst of pink cloud shone where the sun was about to emerge. I had to say, Durga timed this well!

Entirely different from the sunrise in Hampi, I couldn't tell you which one I enjoyed more. As the sun rose above the tide of cloud dissolving against the mountain, I took my chances and climbed far enough up the rigde to get a good look at the other side. I was as much surprised by the sight of tea fields blanketing the terrain as far as could be seen as I was the thought that throughout the near-two-hour drive to get here, we probably had passed a single acre of land that wasn't covered.

As an artist, you devolope an intimate relationship with light, and all of us know that the most beautiful light is that of early morning, rivaled only by the strong warmth of late afternoon. As the shadow of the mountain shrunk to its base then began to creep up its peak, the world glowed in velvety green. I know, I used that adjective yesterday, but 'velvety' is the only word that comes close. I imagine Shiva occasionally enjoys the sensation of brushing his fingertips along the hills when no one is looking. If I were a god, it's what I would want to do!

From my perch, I could make out Durga waving for me to come down. He was chatting with a couple of the men who lived there while one of them demonstated the martial arts he was studying with a long wooden stick. I thought to myself, "Okay. So, is this where they crack me in the head and steal my bag?" but they gave me a hot cup of milk-chai instead. Before coming to India, people told me all their horror stories and I was having a hard time shaking them. Durga asked if there were any clouds this morning and told me I was very lucky today because there aren't always clouds.

We drove back slowly though the fields, and Durga slowed or stopped everytime he noticed me raise my camera to my eye, which was often! Eventually, I told him not to worry, but if there was something I wanted to stop for I'd let him know.

And I was right, the whole way back, there was hardly a single spot that wasn't covered in tea.

He dropped me off at my guesthouse and said he'd pick me up again tomorrow, only this time we'd leave after the sun was already up. I agreed...

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