The past 14 days have been a nonstop adventure filled with factory visits, tours of research institutions, shopping escapades, and hours spent on busses. And I have loved every single second of it. For our last full day in India, we wanted to end this amazing trip with a memorable experience. So, myself and four of my FSAD friends (Tina, Lauren, Hannah, and Mark) decided to create our own adventure with a trip to Dodabetta Peak, the highest point in South India, followed by a visit to two Toda tribal villages.
The view from the top of Dodabetta Peak is breathtaking. Rising about 8,650 feet above sea level, this mountain is surrounded by lush forests and small colorful towns. It is a popular tourist attraction for domestic travelers, and it served as a great way to experience the stunning sights of Ooty. At the top of the peak is a playground, so Tina & I were able to swing on the highest swings in South India, as well!
Throughout our journey in India, we’ve been stopped by many people who have never seen Americans before and want to take photos with us. This was no different at Dodabetta Peak…
Next, we visited two Toda tribal village near Ooty. The Toda population consists of a little under 1000 people who live in farming communities in South India. While the Toda people identify with the Hindu religion, they practice a number of non-traditional religious beliefs and heavily warship the buffalo. Cattle herding and dairy production are the main focuses of their economy, but they also create beautiful textiles and jewelry. They speak their own language and typically live in small communities consisting of between 3 and 7 homes.
On the day we visited to Toda villages, there happened to be a funeral in the community, so most of the tribal people were not present. At the first village, we were able to meet a Toda woman who embroiders beautiful textiles! She showed us some of her products and her embroidery technique!
At the second village, we got to see some Toda temples. This first temple is a true architectural treasure. It’s unbelievably tall and I couldn’t help but wonder how such a structure could have been built without modern technology. The second temple, made of mud and stone, features stunning artistic engravings. Both temples have strict rules, barring non-tribal people and all females from entering through their doors. These structures serve as religious centers for the Toda people.
We ended our day with a trip to the Ooty markets, where we found gorgeous patterned shawls, jewelry, and some nice trinkets. I’m also really excited about a statue I bought in an antique shop that closely resembles a Lladró. It was such a weird thing to find in India, so I couldn’t help but buy it!
Tonight, we had a big farewell dinner. Everyone dressed up in saris, lengas, and kurtas (and yes, I wore black… even amongst all the beautiful colors, I just couldn’t pull myself away from my , and we celebrated with games, dancing, and a fashion show! It was a lovely way to end what has been the most exciting, challenging, and eye-opening trip of my life.
For the farewell dinner, each group was asked to put on a performance. as opposed to a traditional dance routine, the FSAD group decided to reenact 6 different fabric processing techniques. It was definitely the most creative performance of the night, and we had such a blast putting it together.
I seriously can’t believe this trip is coming to an end. These past three weeks have really impacted me so deeply. I can’t say enough great things about India, all the people I’ve met, all the things I’ve seen, and all the new knowledge I’ve gained.
Since this marks the end of my travel diary, I just want to quickly thank everyone who has followed along with my journey. Thank you for the kind words and constant questions about my trip, India, and everything in between (keep the questions coming!). I’ve really enjoyed documenting this experience, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it!