Anyone for Tea?

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January 8th 2009
Published: January 8th 2009
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While we were ready to leave the coast and do a bit of travelling, we realized that we had got too know so many people while we were in and around Varkala and Odayam.
We left Varkala by train to Kottayam (sp) for an overnight stay in a 14 storey modern hotel which we booked because it had a rooftop pool.

The pool was fine. Swim Swim Swim.
The acoustics at dinnertime, however left a lot to be desired. We ate early in the indoor A/C dining room, purely on the basis that the tables were glass and we saw a waiter with a cloth and spray cleaning one.

That my friends , was a luxury we longed for.
We had been in beach huts and shacks and surf side restaurants for three weeks. There is only so much sand you can healthily ingest. So after a really good and not too spicy dinner we took a trip to the roof top pool area with a drink to finish off the evening.

All went (ahem) swimmingly …. couldn’t resist the pun, until some one decided that just what this warm balmy shirt sleeved evening needed was music. When say music, I am insulting the lyrical art. What crackled through the enormous stadium sized speakers at TOP VOLUME was ……….The Eagles.

I am allergic to the song Hotel California. It makes my teeth itch with nausea. It doesn’t make me feel as unwell as when I hear either Dexys Midnight Runners or Dire Straits, but I visibly twitch.
What followed Hotel Bloody California was “November Rain” by Guns and Roses (?) . It has now entered my top fifty torture songs. I went to bed with ear plugs that night - twitching.

The only reason we were there in the first place was so that we could pick up our pre arranged driver and visit the spice / tea plantations in the Cardamom hills. It is notoriously difficult to get to the high ranges and a driver is preferable to five hours bouncing round in a perfectly serviceable but windowless, battered one gear, standard army issue, government bus. Plus we obviously wanted to do the journey by day.

Ruben was to be our driver for the next four days. His car was a standard issue Indian white taxi, evocative of the Raj era and surprisingly roomy, (comfortable stretches it a bit). En route to Kummily, our first stop about 120 Km away, Ruben would randomly stop beside the road and hop out.

At the first stop he showed us natural rubber sheets drying by the roadside and the collecting cup attached to the tap on the trunks of all the rubber trees in the surrounding forest. . Drying on grain sacks underneath was a small crop of pepper and some ripening coffee beans.

At various times during the drive he would point out tapioca, pineapple plants, cardamom, banana and too many more. Just before lunch we entered tea plantation land. We pulled in to a place which had the very Irish name of “Connemara Tea Plantation”. Here we were given a fabulous free tour of the factory from picking and drying right through to sorting. Apart from anything else, the smell in the factory smells just like when you open a tea caddy and get that wonderful delicate tea aroma.

The hills around Kummily are sculpted into patchwork landscapes of hand plucked tea plants. Each stands about 60cm high and the top leaves are picked every ten days.
I m posting this much now and will fill in more once we catch our twelve hour train and start again in Mysore.

Here are the shout outs and the reasons why we have really fond memories of the people we met so far during our stay.

An introduction and some small insight into the daily grind of life in small town India came from chatting with Bala and Checelia at Asthamay Bungalows. We would slip into easy conversation what ever time of day and always come away knowing another nugget of knowledge.

Their breakfast and fresh veg lunches are just perfect and arrive in about fifteen minutes - a first for Varkala as most arrive up to two hours after ordering. I got into the habit of ordering drink, food and the bill in all restaurants as there was some chance of one of the three arriving at some stage.
We had a lovely couple of days on the beach - just ourselves and Jim and Laura from London. We followed their advice and headed up to the hills to see the spice gardens and the tea plantations. For their advice I am truly thankful.

Kirsten is a great Swedish woman we met. She is travelling around South India alone and she had some great stories to tell. We hooked up with her a couple of times and always ended up laughing. She is an actress…. Dahling so needless to say we loved her from the moment we met her.
I do not know where to start when I try to describe our best buddies Justin and Nunu (Densie).
We had such a great time with this exceptionally well tuned in couple and spent most of our time laughing. We had such a long wait for dinner on NYE that we got completely trollied and left the restaurant at eleven. Best NYE we ever had.

And Faizal - correct spelling at last. He is such a charmer. I will remember Bony M (as mentioned in a previous blog), differently from now on.
“Mary’s Boy Child Jesus Christ”, with a Hindi HI NRG mix, sung by a strikingly handsome Muslim, flower wearing rickshaw driver on Christmas Morning, is a sweet memory.

I can strongly recommend it to anyone looking to banish the winter blues away.


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