Friday, January 29, 2016

Yercaud trip

It was like a wedding... without the wedding itself.

If I could describe our Yercaud trip in one sentence, this would be it.

There were gazillions of relatives, there was a bacha party, there was mehendi, there was a performance night, there were games. Like I said, a wedding, without the wedding.

This trip was unlike any other trip, because of the complete lack of a day-to-day agenda. No one had any idea of plan about what we were going to do in Yercaud. In a good way. We would wake up and decide what we were going to do. Sometimes what we were going to do was NOTHING. And no one complained, least of all 'I-can't-function-without-a-plan' me.

First, a little bit about Yercaud itself, since I'd never heard of it before this trip...

It's a hill station in Salem, Tamil Nadu, located in the Shevaroys range of hills in the Eastern Ghats. It's about 1515 metres above sea level, with a temperature range of 13-29 °C. It has a beautiful lake and lots of forests, which is probably what gave it the name Yercaud; in Tamil, 'yeri' means 'lake' and 'kaadu' means 'forest'

Day 1
The last leg of our India trip was Coimbatore where Viv's parents live, and we had been thinking of taking a short trip to a hill station nearby. The elders of the family chose Yercaud, and we agreed at once (how obedient). It was a large group of about 15 (see how vague I am? I really can't track how many people were there and how many days the trip was for...), from both sides of Viv's family, complete with a bacha party, Xena being the third of the musketeers. So the first part of the journey involved a train ride, which was unlike any other train I'd travelled in India. There were no sections within each compartment. In fact, it was kind of like a bus. Vendors would turn up every half an hour, selling meals such as biryani and lemon rice, and I remember it was all super duper cheap.

On the train -- this is only a part of the group that went on this trip!

Viv's sister and cousin indulging in the family pastime of the trip - crossword puzzles! It had come to the point that people were accusing one another -- 'I just went to the bathroom and you guys solved a clue without me?????'

The kiddos were up to their usual antics in the train. Well, at least they kept each other entertained!

After the train ride to Salem, our group was taken uphill in two cars, negotiating not one, not two, but a grand total of 20 hairpin curves! Innumerable monkeys lined the uphill route, so obviously, the kids were in 7th heaven to see so many of their kin. On the way, we also had a glimpse of the most beautiful lake, and we decided to come back at some point for a closer look. 

Finally, we reached the resort and were greeted by the most amazing scenery. 

Told ya!

Can you believe that blue?

The temperature was low but the sun was out, so it made for a glorious morning to be outdoors. The kids started running all over the place immediately...

...while the adults decided to take a more energy-conserving approach.

Xena poses against the beautiful scenery.

The two girls decided to sing an impromptu song using sticks as microphones. I asked them what song it was because it seemed like both of them knew the lyrics, but it turned out to be something completely random that they had made up on the spot. So I randomly christened the song 'Zola pola'. 

All this open space also meant some thrilling rides for the kid. Viv throws his niece high up in the air. 

How can the nephew stay behind? Xena, however, shook her haughty little head and absolutely refused to be a part of such dangerous activities.

We took this fabulous slow-motion video of the throw and catch. 

Soon, lunch was served and we stuffed ourselves silly. The trip was a welcome relief for the older generation to not have to worry about meals because everything was provided for. Since we were the only group at the resort, we were really spoilt when it came to food. Not only was the food already delicious, they also made adjustments whenever we asked, especially for our picky eater Xena. The fact that there are no photos of the food is proof of how good it was. Also, best medu vadas EVER. I have a feeling I ate about seven of them.

It surprised me to no end how both girls would fall asleep and wake up at the same time. Afternoon naps were never such a breeze. 

In the evening, we decided to take a walk around the place. It was getting quite cold and I hadn't taken my woollen hat along so we decided to buy some ear muffs displayed outside a shop. Soon, everyone had gone inside the shop and bought a quarter of its contents.

We had to pose here because the shop was named after my mom-in-law (kidding, of course). Xena had stuffed all her things in the two pockets of my jacket, making me look pregnant! Grrr! Please also notice Uncle C on the extreme left, who was following a dress code for this trip -- Thakur from Sholay. Kidding, again, but you know what I mean.

We made our way back and had a sumptuous dinner, followed by some gup-shup.

Soon, it was time to call it a day and we went to bed with no clue about what the next day was all about. No one asked what the plan was and no one made any.

Day 2
Thankfully, we had spotted that lovely lake on the way to the resort so we knew there was at least one place we wanted to go to. Of course, it took a while to get everyone together. When you have a large group, it is inevitable that someone or the other would go missing.

The girls were dressed and ready to go boating. Ready before anyone else was!

We took a nice long walk to the lake. 

What a pretty sight!

Viv, his mom, his sister and I went on one boat, along with Xena and her cousin.

Xena was quite calm in the boat. Her cousin, however, was quite terrified and spent the entire ride in total silence, which was extremely unusual for that chatterbox.

Sisters-in-law in the same boat

Family selfie on the boat

The other boat had the rest of the party - Viv's dad, his uncle on his mom's side, his aunt on his dad's side, his cousin and her son. I call this group the law-breakers. You'll see in a second why. 

They had bribed the boatman to let them row, something that was not allowed! 

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant with a lovely view of the lake. The place served Indo-Chinese, something I was dying to have, so I was really thrilled. 

The view from the restaurant

The plan was to walk back to the resort, but the afternoon sun was quite hot so I changed my mind and decided to hop into an auto-rickshaw with one of the aunts and Xena. Xena's first auto-rickshaw ride! She was super excited. 

By the time we got home, the little girls were extremely tired and went off for a synchronised nap again, while my sisters-in-law and I indulged in some nail art and mehendi. We also discussed the games and performances we could do the next day. Told you, it was like a wedding without a wedding!

I put this on for my sis-in-law.

The girls had already made me do mehendi on their hands in Coimbatore, requesting some very unusual designs. Yes, I had to google 'helicopter line art' to do this!

After the girls woke up, I told them they were going to sing 'Zola pola' at the performance night the next day and they were quite excited. They even rehearsed! How do you rehearse a song with variable lyrics? Only those two know.

My sisters-in-law had come up with a skit for the performance night, which Viv and I were only too happy to join since we didn't really have any concrete plans about what we were going to do. We did briefly consider 'Bhojpuri Ramayana' but realised that not everyone would understand it.

Some of the ladies, including me, also went for an Ayurvedic massage in a greenhouse. It wasn't quite what I expected, but it was interesting. I didn't quite expect to be on a wooden table sliding from side to side because of the copious amounts of oil my masseuse used. I kid you not, I saw her walk in with a saucepan (yes, you read that right) of oil and I wondered how many people it was for. Turns out it was just for me.

The sun shining down on the greenhouse

Xena and her cousin decided to sunbathe for a while.

In the evening, we played dumb charades, dumb-dumb charades (Person A mimes to Person B, who then mimes the same thing to Person C) and this other game that Viv's cousin suggested. Basically, it's a talk show where the interviewee doesn't speak English and has an interpreter. The audience gets to decide which country the interviewee is from, what he/she is known for, and what the interview was all about. I was wondering how such a game would turn out, considering we had three generations in the room, but it was HILARIOUS. That's the one great thing about Viv's family - everyone is very sporty and game for anything. My family would be a little shy to do something like this.

Catch a snippet of this game, starring Viv's aunt (Korean interviewee Dr Park) and uncle (interpreter).

Day 3
Viv and Uncle C had been going on early morning walks, so I woke up early to join them. The two little girls had also woken up and absolutely insisted on joining us.

It was early all right. We could still see the moon. 

We went up the hill and got a nice view of the whole town. 

That's fog, not pollution. Phew.

View from the top

Viv used the panaroma function to take this picture. Click on it for a bigger view.

And one more!

The walkers

The walkers again, with Viv!

Xena decided to take some time and sit on a rock to mull over life's complications...

... but soon cheered up because... cousin.

We spotted this pretty butterfly on the way. 

After we got back, we had tea (they made really nice tea and coffee and we used to have it every day, twice!) and then bathed and had breakfast. 

Happy baby with her grandpa

Later, we rehearsed a bit more for the skit because performance night was approaching. All the elders had already been informed by my sisters-in-law in a menacing way that everyone HAD TO perform something or the other. 

Tired from their Zola pola rehearsal, the little girls went to nap, while I not able to find a single soul anywhere (rehearsing for performance night?), started watching TV. They didn't have any Internet (which was a good thing because phones only came out when pictures were taken), but they did have TV. It had been so long since I'd indulged in one of my favourite pastimes in India - watching songs of new Hindi movies. So I switched on the TV and surfed till I found the channel I wanted. So. Many. New. Songs. Waaaaahhhh! The song 'Kheench meri photo' from 'Sanam Teri Kasam' got stuck in my head, and stayed there for almost two months.

Finally, it was time to go to the 'amphitheatre' outside for the performance night. It started with 'Zola pola'! Xena developed cold feet at the last minute, but valiantly tried to support her cousin, the star performer. 

Zola pola by the kids

And then it was time for the skit. I have a short clip here to showcase my favourite scene - Viv's cousin playing the part of several prospective grooms, all with different personalities. Fab!

Uncle C recited a hilarious poem. Uncle D sang a song in English, and his daughter joined him. My dad-in-law performed a one-act play called 'Appa's morning' where he demonstrated a typical morning. Well, basically, he just sat on a chair and read the newspaper, but we applauded the effort and the spirit.

My mom-in-law and her sister sang a lovely song in Tamil for us. 

We went for dinner after this, followed by some more entertainment. We played this fun game where one person starts off with a beat and keeps repeating it rhythmically. The next person then adds on a beat or a sound to it and so on. Everyone contributed well and we had quite the orchestra in place. Xena joined me in adding the sound 'cuckoo' on the beat, but my dad-in-law was the most hilarious -- he simply added a coughing sound in sync with the beats!

Panorama shot of the family making music

My sister-in-law and I sang 'Silsila yeh chaahat ka' to entertain the audience. Apt song, huh? SIL-sila! :P
Day 4
On the last day, we decided to go for another early morning walk, even if it meant waking up at 6 am for it. We decided to leave Xena with her grandma so she could sleep a little more and we could also walk a little faster and get farther. 

We got some fab sunrise pictures...

As you can tell, we couldn't get enough of the colours!

We also spotted some funny signs along the way, such as this...

...and this. 

After we got back, we had breakfast and then packed up and prepared to leave. It had been a familicious fabulous four days.

Of course, last but not the least, we remembered to take a family photograph. (Side fact: One of the resort's staff members took this photo with Viv's iPhone and immediately dropped it to the ground. Along with memories of the trip, the dent is still there.) 



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