Published: May 9th 2010May 9th 2010
i'm not saying Kumily is my favourite place in india, i don't have a fave, it's impossible, but recently, we have had a lots of "the is the best ____ in india!!!" moments.
first the tea that i assisted in making in allepey, was declared by monica and others as the best in india! i can't take credit, it was Sumesh who made it, i just put in the tea powder, according to his instructions...
here in Kumily, there is a "french bakery" run by local people, no-one french in sight, but they do have the BEST bread in india! home made brown bread, in fact possibly the best bread i have ever had! it's very hard to get good bread in india (not counting indian bread type products such as naan, porotha etc obviously), but this is sooo nice, so soft you can eat it toasted with no butter (it always costs extra to have butter with toast!).
monica liked the sea at a beach at allepey the best. it was way too choppy for me but monica said it was definately the best in india!
and yesterday, we had what i am going to call the best "coconut themed food" in india. we went to a cookery class. here in the south, and kerala especially, coconut is used a LOT in food. i suppose it is because there are a LOT of coconuts. so, it was extremely tasty, fresh and lovely, but i feel i can't say it was the best food generally, as it's not fair to compare as food in the north, and in different regions is of a different style.
anyway, the cooking class was excellent fun. held in a family home, the grandma, mum, cook, his wife, child and sister were all involved, a proper family affair.
we will never be able to fully recreate this at home, for a start i cannot find anyway of getting coconut so fresh it is like one day old or something. the pastes were made by crushing the coconut and all the other equally fresh spices using a 200 year old stone block and pestle. which i also don't have. and if i bought one here it might just a bit difficult to transport in my backpack.
then this morning, they invited us back for breakfast (free) which was banana bhaji. this was without doubt the BEST breakfast in india! it's actually not banana but plantain, or "cooking banana" sliced in halves and then friend in a very light batter flavoured with cardamon, cumin and... pineapple essence. can you even imagine how delicious that is?
so apart from food based activities we have done some other stuff.
yesterday we got up at 5:30am to go for a guided walk in Periyar Park at 6:30am. didn't see any tigers. or elephants. saw lots of frogs! some birds. a giant malabar squirrel. and apparantly some bison, at a long distance, and by the time it was my turn on the binoculars they had moved.
but it was still a really nice walk, and although we evidently did not get very far into the park, you did get a feel that is was a wild place.
we wanted to go on a boat trip in the afternoon, as each day you want to enter the park you have to pay an entrance fee. so we wanted to do all park based things in one day. we were told the boat trip was 4:00pm, and that we should arrive one early to get tickets. we arrived at 2:20pm to find all tickets sold out!!! :-( apparantly the boat went at 3:30pm and you had to buy tickets one and a half hours in advance. so, we were quite disappointed, but entertained ourselves by watching some cheeky monkeys that were playing around the information centre. until one leapt onto monica's lap and niftly stole her packet of banana chips and she got a bit scared!
today we visited a small spice plantation, a large cardamon plantation, clambered through tea plantations, and sat on top of a waterfall overlooking the plains of Tamil Nadu. we were 2000m above sea level, and 1000m above the bottom of the waterfall. on the way back in the rickshaw, we noticed some activity and heard drumming around a church (christain). we decided to hop out and have a look. there was some festival going on (i have no idea what christain festival is on 9may???) but anyway, it was a very indian way of celebrating a christain festival. there were amazing drummers and a soundsystem being set up on a stage.
the tea plantations are just sooo beautiful. the bushes tend to be planted in lines, hugging the contours of the hills, sometimes around horizontally, sometimes vertically, and sometimes just higgedly piggedly but it's really some of the best scenery i have ever seen. there are small paths zig-zagging their way up the hills, but we decided on the most direct route and scrambled up through the bushes. it was so steep we were practically crawling at times, we had to remind ourselves it is all harvested by hand!!!
we are not 100% sure where we are heading next. we are generally aiming for pondicherry, but the only direct way is a 16hour bus which i do not fancy, so we might head tomorrow for a small town in tamil nady called Madurai, we don't know much about it but it has a train station and from there we can get a bit closer to pondi and the surrounding area.
will see if i can do a few photos but don't hold your breath!!!