I had trouble sleeping last night: too hot,dehydrated, whatever, so it didn’t wake me up when at 3 am the neighborhood pack of dogs began to howl in time with a man shouting. After it had gone on for about half an hour, I stepped out onto my balcony and saw that there were other heads peering out of windows all along the street. I saw a man dressed all in white trying to drive away three dogs who obviously did not wish to be run off while two others, stuck together back to back, stood still in the street. The man kept a steady stream of invective or philosophizing or something going at the top of his lungs while lunging at the dogs up and down the street. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. In the first place, I’ve never seen dogs stuck together back to back before, so in my haze I wondered if they were cojoined twins or something. Maybe I had been asleep after all. I thought the other dogs were trying to attack the two-bodied dog and the man was protecting it. It eventually occurred to me that the man was stinking drunk and just felt like bothering dogs. In any case, what amazed me was that no one on the street yelled at him to shut up. Were they admiring his constant monologue, or were they just extremely polite? I, the ugly westerner, eventually took it upon myself to yell at him and then was immediately joined by others. He stumbled off and immediately the dogs lay down and went back to sleep.
I got maybe an hour of shut-eye after that before getting up to catch the bus to Ooty. It was a private minibus, but don’t let that give you the idea that it was some sort of luxury vehicle. I had about one square foot of space to myself, with a couple of children practically sitting on my lap for five hours. My knees may be bruised for weeks. Luckily everyone was extremely friendly. You don’t want to be noise-phobic when traveling in India: every bus plays music as loudly as the speakers will take. Luckily (1) I like the music — I find it very cheerful — and (2) I always travel with earplugs. On our way up until the hills we passed through a national park with a tiger reserve, but considering how loud our music was it’s not surprising that we saw no wildlife.
We arrived in Ooty at around 2 o’clock. It was the most important hill station during the British Raj, at about 6000 feet a welcome relief from the heat of the surrounding plains, but there doesn’t seem to be much left of the colonial town: it’s been swallowed by the modern Indian population explosion. The guidebook said the temperature might be anywhere from 8 to 17 degrees celsius. I don’t know what it is celsius, but I’m guessing it was in the low 70s fahrenheit today with a fresh cool breeze, just about perfect for me. Indians around me were wearing wooly jumpers and fleece hats. I spent the afternoon in the botanical gardens, which were lovely — full of schoolchildren, lovers, and older men playing games. Although the town isn’t very exciting, I’m looking forward to going trekking through the tea plantations tomorrow.