Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kempty Falls and killer street food

One of the most popular tourist destinations near Mussourie is Kempty Falls, about 15km to the northwest along a sickeningly twisty road. It’s a beautiful place, although it suffers from rather a shocking failure of development planning, with an unsightly clutter of teashops and tatty trinket stalls stretching in either direction along the road from the Falls. After a few little rapids and mini-falls upstream, the river empties itself down a rock face into a natural pool, full of Indian tourists from Delhi cavorting in the chilly water. The area was first developed in about 1835 by a British army officer named John Mekinan. The name Kempty probably derives from “camp-tea”, as the Brits during colonial rule would organize their tea parties here.

One major up-side of Kempty Falls –awesome street food! I patronized a grilled-corn saleswoman, as well as a dude with a pretty basket of goodies, including chickpeas, onion, tomato, salt and lime, which he mixed up with a few deft pinches and swirls. The result: a delicious bowl of spicy, crunchy masala goodness.

The next day back at the language school, in halting Hindi I told my professor about our visit to Kempty Falls. After a funny look and a snort of contempt, he told me how that particular tourist trap was only for people from Delhi, and that Mussourie-dwellers would never be caught dead there. In the summer, Delhi is a sweaty hell-hole, and a well-known escape from the heat is to Kempty Falls. Jump in your car at 5:00am and by 11 you can be at the Falls. My professor painted a very vivid picture of Delhi-ites, oppressed by the heat of the plains, very nearly loosing their minds in childish joy upon immersion in the frigid pool at the base of the Falls. The good people of Mussourie, however, having access to pleasant weather and cool water year round, feel they have no need to visit such a tourist trap.

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