Little Adams peak in low cloud
Cloud is Blowing through the tea plantations hundreds of metres below. Tamil women younger than they look, sat on the path under trees drinking tea from bottles labelled whiskey,, scooping handfuls of red rice from lunch boxes. This is the tea planters lunchtime. They ask if I want to take their photo, which I do then hand them a few rupees.A women with betel stained teeth mimes picking tea and asks me to take a photo in exchange for a few more rupees. I meet a lady on the way up called kanti. She tells me she runs a library for kids and teaches them handicrafts. I promise to visit her.
The views are amazing, the cloud drifts and conceals then reveals little Adams peak, ravana falls and the road snaking along and up Ella gap.
On my way back I buy some seed necklace from a girl and her mother. She shows me the plant that the seeds come from. They dry as red or grey or black seeds. I tell Her aim. From Brighton and she produces a faded card of Brighton pavilion given to her by another traveller.
Children chase me ask if I want to take a photo. They want sweets and school pens. Pass a small shack on the edge of a plants settlement. Young teen boy in pink shirt with gents fashion written on the back calls me over for a wood apple shake.clothes washed and spread out to dry on the thick bushes.
It’s not raining .
I chat with the boy. He is called Jackson. A very young looking 16. He is Tamil, parents are tea pickets. He is working in his school holiday. He likes volleyball and gardening. He dances and body pops for me. Sassi, his boss appears and breaks this spell.. He is also Jackson’s volleyball coach, a bit pushy but kind. He offers to show me the little muddy village where they both live. A shack with cows, where the cow hand shows me his pride. Women carrying jugs of water from the stream, I offer to help one. The houses are roofed with leaking metal sheeting. The walls stone. Dim, dingy. An outside communal toilet. Sassi’s house is full of posters of Indian actors and volleyball trophies. Jackson lives with 6 family members in one house. They cook over wood fires. We go to the playground next to the little Hindu temple. I make some videos of the local boys playing cricket with a bat hewn from a tree trunk. I also have a turn at batting.
I take lunch at the cafe. It is meagre poor and overpriced. Jackson is attentive and smiley. We arrange to meet in the evening. I’m going to treat them to beer. We write the appointed time on each other’s hand.
I have a headache. From the change in climate? Heat? Altitude? Maybe from being unaccustomed to tea.
On the road back I do visit the children’s library and am amazed by kanti’s resourcefulness. She is building a shack, at hatching it with palm leaves, as a place to sell her cushion covers. I decline a head massage from the guy with the shop next door. I think it might make a migraine even worse.
After a sleep I meet the tamil guys at dusk. We walk up and down looking for a place to eat. They choose an unwelcoming soulless place where the beer is costly. Sassi tells me Jackson is hungry. I don’t really want to buy them dinner…is this mean? By fluke Fran is the other side of the window that separates the restaurant from an Internet shop. I relent and buy the boys a roti kotthu. Their eyes light up at the sight of meat. They say this is the first time they have eaten out since April. This is a treat for them. They shake my hand. Thank you my friend. You are good heart. Fran joins us she and sassi sketch each other. Jackson looks cold and tired. 8.30 is his bed time. He is wearing a pink and black hoody emblazoned with the words punk coulture, which I try to explain, but this means nothing. Unsurprisingly. We talk more. Sassi claims to have a girlfriend. Jackson says he doesn’t like doesn’t like. He has 20 computers in his school. Sassi tells me he only owns 2 shirts. He asks me for at shirt. I tell him impossible. Tonight he and Jackson’s re wearing their best clothes.
Jackson 3 February
Sassi 2 November
They leave at 8.30, it’s time for their bedtime.
Fran and I go to another place. Where she ensues in a confused discussion. About wine. It’s a. Bit like being in Brighton. The curry and rice is feeble, but as luck would have it the waiters maths are not too good and we get undercharged. By 10pm the town is shutting down and there are hardly any tuk tuks. At the junction in that dark are cops. I spot a couple of tuk tuks that have stopped a little up the road. I go and chat to the drivers. They tell me they are drunk so they won’t proceed and get stopped by the police. Finally we find a sober one, with 3 guys in the back. Fran clambers in for a dicey ride home.