India - Part 8 - Magical India

Stunning sunset at Amgoorie Tea Estate.

Stunning sunset at Amgoorie Tea Estate.

This is part 8 of my Indian tea adventure. You can read the rest here.

"Anything is possible in India." That's something we all kept saying. India has this kind of magic to it where everything feels not quite real, which gives the air that anything you imagine might just happen. Every time we'd feel like we'd seen it all, something else would happen. There's a bit of a wildness to India that is captivating. It's more than just the landscape or the people. There's something in the air that can't really be explained.

There's one evening in particular in Assam that stands out in my mind as having a few of these wild moments that just made me go "What good did I do in my life that I am allowed to experience this?" That evening was the one we spent at Amgoorie Estate.

I fully admit, I was wiped out by this point in our journey. We had been going full steam for nearly two weeks straight on very little sleep and I was kind of loopy. Everyone had been incredibly kind and accommodating to us, but I was getting a bit homesick and I was so tired that I'd gone through exhaustion and come out the other side into a weird buzzed manic state of mind.

Some of this state of mind might have had something to do with the experience of driving in Assam. It was yet another kind of driving, different from the crowded Kolkata streets or the winding, misty bumpy roads of Darjeeling. Driving in Assam is fast and straight and might even be quite simple if it weren't for the cows. There are cows everywhere and they make the rules. They own the roads. They stand there in the middle of the street, staring the cars down until the cars just go around them. Sometime they curl up and take a nap, right in the middle of a two lane 80 km/h road. It's their turf and everyone else just has to deal with it. The result of this is that any car trip turns into a bumpy, brake-tapping, swerving, high speed thrill ride. Without seatbelts. It puts any rollercoaster to shame. At first I was actually pretty scared. I like crazy drives, but this was a whole other level! Every driving experience felt like it could be the last thing I ever did. One stray stubborn cow in conjunction with a too-fast truck in the oncoming lane and that could be the end of me. But the mind can't sustain a state of fear for forever, so eventually you just accept the fact that you might crash and that becomes that new "normal." Death around ever corner? No problem.

Completely, 100% normal. Photo credit: www.newindianexpress.com

Completely, 100% normal.

Photo credit: www.newindianexpress.com

I'd also been bitten by some kind of spider and was a tiny bit worried that it was going to take a turn for the worse. Thankfully it didn't get too bad, but I had a few paranoid days fretting about it. It eventually healed, long after we got home, and left behind a scar with an interesting story behind it.

This in conjunction with the constant, oppressive 50 degree humidity had fried my brain so thoroughly by the time we reached Amgoorie that I think I barely knew my own name. So maybe that's why I ended up having an almost out of body experience that night.

By this time we'd seen about a dozen tea estates, but every place is a little bit different and even this close to the end of our trip there were still new and exciting sights to see. Amgoorie is on the very edge of Assam, very close to the neighbouring state called Nagaland which is very hilly compared to Assam. Amgoorie seemed to be right at the place where these two terrains met. It started out flat as can be, but as we drove deeper into the estate, everything turned to wild, rolling hills and I felt like I was somewhere else entirely. It was Magic Hour, that gorgeous time of day when all light turns to liquid gold and everything feels just a little bit unreal. Suddenly I wasn't in Assam anymore. I was in Vietnam, or maybe Africa. Maybe Middle Earth. It was one of those moments where the world can feel very big and very small at once. Like those moments where you look around at the streets of your own city and you can see the similarities between it and some other distant places you've been, but if someone asked you to explain how, you wouldn't quite be able to. Like I said, I was beyond sleep deprived at this point, but that feeling is one of my favourite things about travel.

A path into the rolling hills of Amgoorie.

A path into the rolling hills of Amgoorie.

We drove back to the bungalow in the cooling air into a vivid pink sunset and I felt profoundly lucky to be experiencing the moment.

That night, we were invited to a party at Amgoorie. And what a party! The evening had turned into a clear, warm night with a bright, full moon. We were greeted with ice cold beer and I think we were all profoundly grateful about this. There was enchanting music in the air and I sat back and enjoyed my beer and let it wash over me. I wandered out into the enormous backyard and was delighted to find out that the music was being played by a live band in a gazebo on the other end of the lawn! We kicked off our shoes and ran across the grass to watch them.

Then dancers showed up and insisted me join them. By this point we were all familiar with the dance and I managed to join in without making too much of a fool of myself. So there we were, dancing barefoot in the grass under a full moon on the other side of the world, arm in arm with a group of people I never would have met if not for a series of unlikely circumstances. It was another one of those weird experiences and I just let myself get carried away by the beautiful music and the warm air and company, not a care in the world. I don't normally understand the point of dancing, but on that night I tapped into something in my brain and it all made sense why people have been doing this throughout history.

Sadly power is hard to come by in rural India when you're constantly on the move and all my devices were dead by this point, so I have no photos to remember this night. That's okay though. It can stay weird and magical in my head.