The Snake and the Stick

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February 15th 2010
Published: February 15th 2010
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I saw this snake while walking. Unfortunately I only got a picture of the tail.
Walking through the lush green hills outside of Munnar I kept having distracting thoughts about snakes. I had traveled up into Indian hill country and was walking through tea plantations that dotted the rolling hillside. One time I even thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, but it turned out just to be a stick. A second time it wasn't a snake, but a large lizard that caught my eye. But the third time there was no question about it - a 5 foot long snake was quickly slithering into the brush. Now I have nothing against snakes, and was intrigued by the chance to photograph one in the wild in India. However, given that there are snakes here venomous enough to kill an elephant, I wanted to make sure that I didn' t step on or corner a particularly dangerous one. Now as it turns out I wasn't the only one who saw the snake. A lungi-clad tea harvester working in a nearby field also noticed it. Yelling in Malayalam he ran over and hacked it to death with his walking stick. I actually have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand the snake

This man also saw the snake. He killed it with his stick.
wasn't threatening anyone and was trying to get away when it was killed. On the other hand the man probably had children or even grandchildren who play in the fields and wouldn't want them to get bit. Either way it seems I bring bad luck to snakes.

Arriving in Munnar was different than other places I've been in India. First of all it was cold. Ok, it wasn't really cold, but cold enough to make me wish I had a sweatshirt, and cold enough for some of the Indians to wear hat and gloves. Second, I arrived late in the evening. Not having a place to stay I had to do the very last thing you ever want to do in India - ask a rickshaw driver for a room. However, instead of taking me to a fleapit where he would earn a hefty commission, this rickshaw driver actually gave me directions to a nice inexpensive place and told me I could walk there. The next morning I awoke in the hill station of Munnar, located at over 6000 feet in elevation and surrounded by lush green tea plantations. The air was actually fragrant with the smell of tea

the town
leaves in the air, and the relatively cool air was punctuated with strong sunlight that made everything glow green. I spent the following days walking around the surrounding countryside hiking and being swarmed by groups of local kids. I have to say that there is something inherently healthy about kids running around in fields playing with sticks - this element of childhood is something that seemed lacking when I taught in Korea, but was out in full force here in Munnar.

My last night in Munnar I found a bottle of beer in a shop called Royal Challenge, and the name seemed to good to pass up. However, as I took my first sip I realized that drinking this bottle of beer would indeed be a challenge. I felt strangely full given that I had been hiking all day, and I could barely swallow the beer. A couple hours later I was in the bathroom with some of the worst food poisoning I've ever had. I ended up having to stay an extra day in Munnar, because I was in absolutely no shape for a bus ride the next day. I have now decided to go almost completely veg in India - I won't eat meat here unless it was alive earlier in the day. After a long day of hiking in Munnar I craved protein and decided to order some Chicken Masala - problem is that there were three power outages when I was staying there alone so the meat is probably not stored at sufficiently cold temperatures. Oh well, I knew I'd get sick sooner or later, and I seem to be better now.

I'm now in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, where I arrived last night. I will post a blog about my experiences here once I arrive at my next destination, probably the city of Madurai.


Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Local KidsLocal Kids
Local Kids

they followed me for a couple hours chatting the whole time
Kids with SticksKids with Sticks
Kids with Sticks

these kids were sword fighting when I passed but then wanted me to play golf with them

20th February 2010

hooray steve picture!! the tea fields are gorgeous ... and yes to kids with sticks running around in fields :)

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