We left the hotel having lost a sock but at least they didn't charge for the washing! We travelled into Munnar and visited the tea museum with our guide Augustine not Augusta as I had said and anyway we renamed him Gus. We were shown how tea was produced all the different stages, and shown some antique stuff from the time the Brits were there including mounted animal heads-UGH! The video was really good and altogether a worthwhile experience. Gus then took us in to the tea plantation, not sure why I was itching to leave. We said our goodbyes and because of a road closure we had to go via the back road to Thekkady. This meant a mostly single track winding undulating road and it just went on and on. The vegetation was beautiful, mostly tropical trees and tea plantations but it became incredibly lush and interspersed were these huge Spanish style houses it really did not feel like India. We passed through the occasional village before rejoining the main highway, and then this road although slightly wider also wound around the hills, it felt like the longest fairground ride ever! We saw so many churches and temples and
Gus at Tea Museum
We were being taught about the different stages the tea leaf goes through
they are busy building new ones, much of the money coming from foreign tourists who donate and from Indian people who work overseas. We have seen lots of children coming and going to school all in uniforms and looking so smart, but today saw some girls in beautiful pink sari's their uniform! We eventually arrived at Cardamom County Hotel and it is paradise. Set in beautiful grounds yet a few moments walk from the town. We were treated by a dab of something on our forehead, then a necklace of jasmine flowers and given a drink of ginger, cardamom and lime in soda water and was delicious. The hotel is set in a wildlife park and monkeys and civets roam freely. We had some lunch on the terrace after unpacking and then were met at about 4 to go to a local spice garden. Our guide a Moslem chap called Surer, and he walked through the garden with us explaining about the plants. First the queen of the spice Cardamom used in cooking for flavour , then the king, pepper and finally the prince vanilla an orchid that is under threat as it has picked up some kind of virus.
He explained that good vanilla can be wound around the finger and not snap. He explained about the 4 different types of pepper and how that is removed from the branch by feet! and then showed us how rubber is extracted and made into rubber. We were also shown a cinnamon tree whose leaves are known locally as bay leaves and the bark really did smell of cinnamon. They remove twigs and dry them in the sun, they unwind and become the cinnamon sticks. We were also shown a coffee bush which did not smell of coffee that comes in the roasting and originally it came from Arabia. A clove tree was in flower but they normally try to collect the cloves before flowering and brown ones are best not black. The cocoa tree had been virtually destroyed by bats and squirrels that made holes in the shells before extracting the seeds. He explained about many of the medicinal uses but said that google has all the answers! Steve decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool surrounded by lush grounds, it really was a beautiful setting. In the grounds of the hotel, lodges in reality, are 43
different species of animals, getting to grips with India now and both of us are enjoying the experience. Also addicted to curries, life will not be the same again. A new day begins at 5 am
and we leave at 5.30 in a jeep with Barbu. We drive to the Periyar wildlife park and its cold! We see a jeep turned on its side, going too fast on a misty morning and our driver slows a little, but the sooner you get to the park the more you see. The animals sleep on the Tarmac roads at night as it is warmer and the first jeep sees them, however Barbu thought our lives were more precious and we arrived about fifth in line. The first animals we saw were elephants but they were a long way away walking on the crest of a hill. Next we saw black monkeys they were close and big but on the move so difficult to snap. Then we saw huge squirrels with big black bushy tails. They performed amazingly for us fighting over food but who knows what they were really doing. The morning light was coming over the hills and we arrived at a viewpoint
where we saw the vastness of this park. 950 square kilometres stretched out all around us and we didn't realise just how big that is.We arrived at the lodge for breakfast mainly Indian style but with eggs and fruit, coffee tea and bread we were satisfied.We met our park guide Ramirez and together with Arial a guy from France we walked to the lake got into a canoe and were rowed across. Our guide explained that this wasn't the best time to see animals and we sort of knew that we weren't going to see Tigers and Leopards or even Elephants close up, and as he had nothing to defend us like a stun gun I suppose we were happy about that. We started to climb the bank into the forest and Ramirez explained about the various plants we saw, I didn't realise that a Banyan tree was a parasite of sorts, only growing upwards once it had another tree to support it. We saw a small lizard and then some more squirrels and black monkeys. Birds, butterflies, ants were all in evidence but the magic of the place was that it was so unspoilt. The path had been made
They were huge
by elephants walking through the forest and there was lots of marks to show that they had passed by recently as well as markings made by a leopard that Ramirez reckoned was only a day old. The forest track kept winding upwards and the vegetation became thicker blocking out most of the powerful sunshine which was a welcome relief. We entered a small glade and heard what we thought was a dog, our guide told us it was barking deer but I guess it heard us and scarpered. We stopped briefly for a break by a stream and were joined be more Trekkers, one a family from France with a 3month old baby. Cute little fellow but I think the purpose of the trek was lost on him. We crossed over the stream and ascended a steep bank on the other side, kept climbing and eventually joined the track that led to our lunch spot. Had an amusing conversation with Arial in English, French, Spanglish and Frenglish, we all got the gist of it. After lunch a boat ride around the lake were we saw a beautiful kingfisher, cormorants and a river snake but none of the elusive mammals. Decided
to skip the afternoon trip to a plantation and asked Barbu to take us back to the hotel. The drive through the reserve was outstanding, we had missed most of the scenery in the morning because it was dark. The pool beckoned and the rest of the afternoon was spent wallowing around the excellent pool unlike the elephants who we did not see wallowing anywhere. In the evening we ventured over to the restaurant in the grounds and enjoyed an excellent meal, mainly curry, ok all curry, and chatted to a couple on the table opposite we had met earlier in the day. They were living in Chester so we had a lot in common, a pleasant way to finish off what was a brilliant day.
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