Before you take a peak.....

You need to be aware this is our old blog. Dave (the blogger) started blogging when, as a family, we went to India for 3.5 months from April - August 2008. This blog is the story of our time there. You'll find lots about our story by going to the 'archives' section of the blog to the left below.

If you want to see our current news go to our new website and blog here..

May 07, 2008

Grab yourself a big coffee for this post.....

The following was on of the most amazing days of my life but I still can’t work out if it was stunningly good or just staggeringly hard work….!!

We were leaving tonight for Avalanche, a (jungle based) Scripture Union outdoor pursuit centre in place called Ooty. This camp was a joint venture between a group called ‘J team’ based in Chennai (who work well with Raj) and the Fishermen Trust (Raj’s set up. It was for various people – lots of young people and others as there is little distinction here when it comes to who to invite. If it is a youth camp it is normal for a parent of grandma to come as it’s all the extended family stuff – nothing unusual with that here….

Left 10.30pm and got a taxi (with another couple who were speaking too) to the coach station. Literally hundreds of coaches and although ours left at 11am it takes an hour to get out of the station as things are so disorganised….!!

Coach was good (ish) with good leg room (pic). Travelled for about 3 hours and then stopped by the side of the road for loo break. Then took off for another 4 hours for the remainder of the journey.

After the last 2 hours of the journey were winding our way up the steepest, sharpest bends I have travelled on since I went to China, we arrived at the top of the mountains and Ooty – a lovely small little town that is a bit of a tourist attraction for Indians in the summer (that’s now).
Arrived in Ooty at 6.30am at Ajoo’s house – Ajoo is a great guy who manages the Scripture Union set up at Avalanche. He is such a good guy and working against some extremely tough circumstances (don’t want to go into too much more on the blog for obvious reasons. More on him later maybe….

Stayed for breakfast and Ajoo and his wife’s house (pic) – tiny little place off the beaten track in Ooti. We have cereal (that we had brought) and some milk we bought too. Esme was really in a bad way with diarrhea. Bless her heart. We managed to find some toilet roll (as stupid Dad forgot to bring some!)

We then went off to Ooty town centre where the guys had some breakfast at a restaurant. I say a restaurant but I don’t want any of you to get the wrong impression when I say that let me just describe this (slightly posher) restaurant we eat in…..

Small place (enough for 20), formica tables covered in muck and dirt (I mean kind of clean but not really), flies absolutely everywhere, boiling hot, kids serving us food and the kitchens were…well I think it’s best off if I didn’t describe that….!!

The walk from Ajoo’s house to this restaurant was a steep uphill one and we were 000’s metres above sea level. (pic) The air was so clean and yet incredibly thin. I have never experienced this thin air at this height before. I saw Palin going up Everest the other day and it really affected him and I wondered at the time what that must feel like…and now I experienced it! It was only a 10 minute walk to the restaurant but you had to walk so slowly due to this thin air.

Following this…the fun began…!!

We were met by two jeeps and taken up the even windier mountains than we had been before – Es in the back and Josh in the front with some of the guys who turned out to be the cooks at Avalanche and became real friends – amazing guys. One of these guys (Sam - see left) and his wife had two kids with the boy being the same age as josh. He just connected with Josh straight away and they were like glue the whole week!!! More later…..

So after winding up the very steep hills with coaches coming at us all over the place (I mean seriously coming at us where on at least 4 occasions I thought that was it and grab the kids for their lives!!! Got to the top of one mountain and we stopped off at a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. There was a cluster of about 8 ram shackled huts with families in at the peak of this mountain where there was no other civilisation at all.

Here we were met by the beast of Scripture Union (who rune Avalanche). The beast is a huge truck with nothing fancy on it but just huge tyres, a huge engine and a driver that would make “The Stig” (from Top Gear look like a real woss!). We found out later why the truck need to be like this......

We packed all the gear (remember we were carrying all the sleeping bags for a camp with 50 people) onto the beast and headed off on treacherous mountains again – this time with the truck not having manageability of the jeeps but having the sheer grit and determination we needed!

Along the way we had some fun too..... By the way I have the full permission of my daughter to tell this story as a way of trying to convey to you some of the challenges but at the same time fun and memories that we have started to reflect on...

On the way to Avalanche in the beast we stopped for views over the hills - lots of workers on tea planatations etc. Once again Esme had the squits and there was nowhere to go so we went over to a bush and with a lot of help from Dad Esme sorted herself out and felt a lot better. Just as she was pulling her trousers up we looked to the right of the 'squit' (sorry!!) was a little gekko (see left) perching on a branch watching her. Es and I looked at each other and burst into laughter!! I know it's a grot story but I hope you get the gist of the massive mix of pain, frustration, laughter, and memories that we have day by day here.....
Travelled for a further hour right into the jungle and got dropped off there as the truck can go no further with bags and humans. Why? Well because of the mud and muck from here to where the camp is. We had to walk through the forest for another 2 hours til we reached avalanche. The truck came alongside us at time battling through the pools of water and mud to get the base too. Amazing sites. .....

The jungle was just like it looks on ‘I’m a celebrity’ (something that was the furthest from our minds by this stage!). It is forest /jungle for miles and miles – as far as the eye can see. No other civilisation at all just jungle….Following our trek into the forest we finally arrived (very hot and sweaty at Avanlanche and, what a place!!! I have never never been to a place like this or even seen. I cannot describe to you the beauty of Avalanche. Words on a blog just don’t do it and neither does the camera video I am afraid guys. This is the best I can give you and you will have to imagine the rest…..(Pic)

In the evening it rained at Avalanche. You have to understand we are now on the borders of the monsoon season out here so it is very very hot (although Ooty and Avalanche are more like a cool summers day which was refreshing) with rains coming in every now and again. Now when the rains come, they really come and they come in hard and heavy. I can’t describe again what it’s like but ‘hard and heavy’ is what it is. If you are caught in it (as you will see we were in a mo) you are totally wet through in a few seconds. It rained all night with rain like I have not experienced (until later in the week as you will red in a mo).

We went to the lake to have a look and possible swim at about 5pm and just as we go to the lake we had ‘one of those storms’…..lightening across the sky, deafening thunder and then the rain as described!! Raj had brought a large yellow parachute for looking at some team games so the group of 20 odd got under the yellow parachute for dry (well no chance of it keeping us dry really). We were about 50 feet from the nearest forest clearing where there was at least a chance of getting out of the way of the lightening.

A couple of people came up with the idea of slowly walking with the yellow parachute over our heads to the forest – shuffling foot by foot along the riverside. There wasn’t really enough parachute for us all to be honest so this wasn’t easy. In the end 4/5 of us got a little frustrated with trying to do this (yes me and the kids were in that group) so mad a bolt for it. As we stood in the forest with rain still pouring down I suddenly had a giggle of what it must of looked like if a plane was going over at that time – nothing for miles but jungle and then a lake a clearing and a large piece of sweetcorn moving along the shoreline towards the nearest trees!!!!

Rained for the rest of the evening and nowhere to dry the clothes – horrible but such such fun. Kids loved it! Got back to camp and had ’Milo’ a sort of malted hot chocolate which we all loved and was one our lifelines for the rest of the week – breakfast and evenings!

Bed was in a tent (one of the ones Raj got that was left over from the Glastonbury festival – see blog entry on ) a blanket on top and one on bottom – in a climate such as a cool British summers day (i.e fairly cold in the evening). Not pleasant but the kids coped very well.

The group that was coming from Chennai (J Team group) had had their coach break down at about 4pm. The journey was meant to take them around 8 hours from Chennai and they finally arrived at 12.30am having had their journey taken 12 ½ hours!! By this time we were in bed and when the Chennai lot arrived they had been couped up in a coach for so long they had t let off some steam so the campsite became just a little noisey – to say the least!!