Update as of 1 December 2009
Driving up a mountain slope can be quite thrilling, adventurous, exhilarating, tough and joyful. I prefer the joyful part of ride. I must admit that in the past 20 years of my driving experience, I have not attempted too many of these mountain drives, but one that I enjoyed immensely was from the base of a volcanic mountain in Eastern Africa. The base, mind you, was already at 8000 feet above mean sea level, and the initial climb was gentle past green pastures, where cattle grazed lazily and occasionally stared at us zooming past. Then the forest cover started building up as we climbed higher. The forest was lush, almost tropical, except that it was at an altitude that demanded the wearing of sweaters or other woolens to keep us warm, the adrenaline rush notwithstanding. The road was also getting patchy and giving way to a dirt track. The joy of turning smooth corners not knowing what to expect around the corner; the unexpected mountain stream cutting across the road that suddenly stopped us in our tracks; the ominous and scary visible signs of a marauding elephant that had torn fresh bark of a tree by the roadside, or the abundant elephant dung that lay ahead of us. The sounds that accompanied us on the ride were also pleasant and despite being mid-morning, the sun rarely streamed in, yet it was a fairly clear visible day. As we drove higher and higher, our ears popped several times, and it got chillier, and we yearned for some hot coffee or tea. Interestingly, the climb then got less steep, and the trees were also getting less denser and giving way to mountain grass and shrubs. And surprise, surprise! We noticed a placard on the road inviting us to a Mountain Top Hotel and we drove straight to it. It was not a small tin shack with slate roofs, but an imposing Victorian structure, almost castle-like, with a well tended lawn and driveway. Extremely inviting for a bunch of adventurers looking for their first cup of coffee or tea. We made ourselves comfortable in the verandah and were served the creamiest milk with the freshest coffee I have ever tasted (not sure if the rare mountain air had anything to do with this?). Sipping out of exquisite China, we asked the waiter if there were wild animals that bothered them in their estate. He smiled, and answered in one word, “Sometimes”, and cleared up the cups. We stretched and walked about the lawns and suddenly noticed something that is so often shown on Wildlife TV channels – a herd of African elephants gently ambling on the slopes just outside the hotel and not caring two hoots for humans who had just drunk some coffee! And what a sight it was to see lush hilly slopes with black elephants juxtaposed to a snow capped perfectly formed volcanic mountain. Breath taking – almost like on top of the world!
The desert storm from the Persian Gulf has not been harsh our D Boyz this week. While they had sweet somethings to nibble on yesterday (do you remember the Good Date Pudding?), they had good news from their automobile friends today. They test-drove the cars, motor-bikes on the hilly, but lush green terrain of D Street – and took the SENSEX with them. The cool green weather kept the SENSEX happy and high up and this went on for most of the day till they concluded with a coffee break on a plateau-like place at end of day. The lush land and good ride helped the D Boyz to look kindly at acquiring some land for themselves – they argued that this was no desert – Realty Index gained 6%), while the good car drive got the thumbs up as the auto index climbed 2.9%. The SENSEX enjoyed the uphill ride of 272 points (1.6%) and was happy looking out at the beautiful hills and mountains beyond from the vantage point of 17198.
That evening, we had a small bonfire at the farm cum school that we stayed at, near the mountain base to celebrate the day, nothing else. The light showers and rising mist forced us to move indoors quickly and a friend’s amateurish but tuneful piano recital kept us busy till dinner was served.