Travelogue: Fangirling in Ooty, Padmesh travels and other such things

In the first post about my adventures in the Maldives I was singing praises about solo travel and not so much group, I was mistaken. I did my first (not counting school) group trip and it was AMAZING. The nine of us barely knew each other, we just had one person in the group connecting us- the plan maker. We had unexpected synchronization and managed to eat, stay and not so much pray together, so you see almost family?


We were headed to the second day of a very promising sounding music festival- Monkey Town- chakra healing, meditation, arts and a small but fascinating line up of artists in the hills. Despite the weather apps predicting rain we soldiered on, arriving at not quite the centre of Ooty; we decided to trek to the venue since we hadn't really planned things like transport in the spirit of being spontaneous. What we thought at first was mid-way, we hitched rides from a kind gentleman with an empty car and a minivan to the venue; we were sorely mistaken, it would have been a pretty long walk if we had continued mapping and trekking. At the hotel venue, we headed straight to the restaurant and went crazy at the breakfast buffet before we got in touch with the organizers about what to do next.

Since the music festival didn't begin for hours. By the evening we were beginning to despise the organizers for the ridiculous amount of delay. Later we learned that due to rain, not everyone had soldiered on, most of their acts backed out or responded late while the rest got stuck in tourist traffic. Finally at 5:30 things started happening and the festival which in all honesty was like a farm house party meets a gig at a bar kind of event. It was cute but terrible acoustics, considering it was the whole nine yards (drums and an entire band set up) inside a small auditorium space. Our group of nine was already in full swing party mode because we were essentially a festival of our own given the large number and by the time the festival had began we had made friends with so many of the performers. So by 6 pm we were in-the-doesn't-matter-what's-happening, we-are-already-having-too-much-fun-mode.


One act was absolutely stunning, saved the night for us, band called 'Mindmap'. Their performance was surreal, blue lights, neon background set up, interesting instrument line-up- 'a didgeridoo, an electric violin, a hand-pan, the drums, a bass guitar, a synthesizer and a vocalist who was experimenting with lyrics and sounds. The outcome was stunning. To add to the experience they had organised two performers- a ribbon dance to go with the music and a juggler who worked with two glowing balls on strings (in the pictures). With a little help, by now we had accustomed ourselves to the jarring acoustics and it seemed like the whole festival crowd, for the first time that evening, had filled up the auditorium to enjoy the entire thirty minute experience. The one band I was eagerly awaiting (because fan girl!) couldn't play because the cops showed up to close the party. The "festival" was crossing curfew time. *rolls eyes exasperated*

So we were all shuttled to the campsite, a few kilometers away, in thick fog squashed into a jeep, thrown about on a non- existent narrow winding road up a hill. For most of the journey we were afraid of voicing our complete lack of faith in the driver, destiny and mostly the world. But we made it, leap of faith, lets call it. I suppose the collective leap helped with leverage against the odds. Pitch dark, a cold wind was blowing and well there were no people excluding the guys who drove us up. Using the jeep headlights and cellphone torches we groped about for the promised tents and sleeping bags (part of the festival pass). By the time we huddled up, besides a prime location next to what looked like a potential bonfire, a whole crowd had gathered to start the fire.

Here is the best part, the bit that totally made my weekend. So the band that I absolutely love- Girish and the Chronicles, the ones who couldn't perform a few hours ago, joined the campsite to do an acoustic set.  By the end of the night the entire band was sitting besides us and sharing drinks and cigarettes with our group. The cold and awe kept me from swooning with joy, I suppose. It was a fan girl dream come true, after-partying with your favorite band!

It got even better because after a whole night of singing and sitting around the fire, the lead singer returned the next day and chilled with us on the hill. Oh yes returning to the trip, the night camping blurred into the next day which we spent trying to hunt down a hotel with a bathroom spacious enough to take what we coined a "festival shower". Failing we just ate whatever the hotel would give us and made the best of three small, muddy and wet bathroom cubicles. We were all surprised by how little that seemed to have bothered us. *laughs*

Post a trip to the man village, we returned to the hill campsite. It had a stunning view of the Nilgris mountains, the rest of the town, and it had a mini meadow feel to it. To top it off, right across was a hill that some people from our group decided to trek up to while the rest of us just lay about enjoying the view. The fire had gone out, a new group of people were at the hill, mostly the organizers cleaning up while we spread out. Lo and behold, the lead singer along with members of another band joined us late in the afternoon. *insert starstruck but obviously playing it cool eyes* (I pray to god, the band never EVER read this post)

After watching the sun go down, the musicians invited us to have late lunch with them, it was going to be 6 but whatever, who was keeping track? Having become official groupies we agreed. All was wunderba, the organizers who so kindly offered us a ride and whom we had grown to like and sympathies with were (secretly relieved and) glad to hear we had  a good time and were (finally) leaving. Plot twist the hotel we had agreed to meet up at had not opened for services. Being the adventurers and food deprived campers we were, we didn't take it personally and moved into an empty table in the hotel next door. By the time the band found us we were too involved with our meal of grilled chicken, gravy and parothas. The best was yet to come, as we left the hotel, the owner very coyly asked us "So, what is the name of your band?"


Ideally a drive down or bus ride to Ooty should take you 5-6 hours. We took one that took 10 hours non AC and sleeper. Some obscure bus company named Padmesh whose bus seats were questionable on the matters of hyegnie, but were at-least intact, with dysfunctional plug points and VERY squeaky windows, the kinds that makes your skin crawl. In fact on the way back, there were no lights in the bus, "not working ma, adjust please", I recall hearing the bus driver tell us as we boarded the bus back home

From strangers, to pack, to festival, to groupies to a band. We were elated over the weekend, both figuratively and literally. Moral of this story, you know those last minute trips that sound unpromising, unimaginable and potentially dangerous- don't say no to all of them. Say yes, don't plan, put things in a bag-pack and live a little. Embrace life, carpe weekend.


A few credits: 
Some of the images are courtesy of people who traveled with me
The Photo Collage Editor app on the Play Store for the collages


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