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Published: December 12th 2011
Farewell Fort Kochi!!
Smell ya later... literally
We reached the end of our time in Fort Kochi after a pretty interesting five days including but not limited to: being served raw fish (not the tasty Japanese on purpose kind); having extremely honest waiting staff chase us a few hundred metres through a maze of alleyways to return Aisha's bag (containing passports, money, camera etc); and sundry other delights. At the end of that, what do you do? Like every good pack of fugitives known to mankind, this particular Bonnie and Clyde headed for the hills. Now for those geography obsessives amongst you there's really only one set of hills around here worth heading for. Known to the British during the colonial era as the 'High Range of Travancore' and to everyone else as the Western Ghats, it's the south western end of the spine of mountains which stretches down through southern India. In the bad old colonial days the Brits used it as a refuge from the intense heat and humidity along the coast and after close to two weeks worth of trawling along that very coast sucking air like hot soup, we were looking at this with what could be termed 'indecent anticipation'.
Our last morning
Legs of steel!
And they can do this for HOURS!!!
in Fort Kochi dawned bright and early after an evening spent packing up most of our gear and getting our parcel of newly acquired goods packed up to send home. Now we digress, because in Australia sending a parcel might barely rate a mention, but in our travels sending a parcel to Australia has given us interesting exposure to post offices and bureaucracy from Japan to HK to India. We'd observed in our traversing of the warren of oldschool streets in Fort Kochi that a lot of tailoring shops seemed to offer 'parcel packing' as a service. Okay we thought, guess there's people around here who can't be bothered to pack the box themselves, so what. Being the Incredibly Self-Empowered Travellers that we are, we thought bugger it, how hard can it be to pack a box at the post office? The answer? 'Harder than you'd think if the post office doesn't sell any damn parcel boxes or packing materials of any kind'; and with that the mystery was solved. So off to the tailor we went, where they dug out a box which had last housed a case of Kingfisher beer and got to work parking our stuff inside.
But there's always another vista around the corner...
Now if that was all, we wouldn't have mentioned it. Once the two man (technically man+woman) packing team had crammed everything in just so and sealed the box with approximately 27 metres of brown tape, the old lady sitting in the entrance to the shop with her old treadle sewing machine whipped up a fantastic calico cover, which was then hand stitched closed at the top and the stitches sealed with hot red wax. Freakin awesome, freakin old school.
So package sent and bags packed, we sat around to await the arrival of our driver at 11am to cart us up to our accomodation in Munnar, a mere 5.5 hour drive away. On the dot, by which we mean at 10:30 there was a knock on the door, lo and behold the driver awaited. So we set off through the busy streets of Fort Kochi and Ernakulam heading west and upwards, through plantations of pineapple, coconut palms and rubber trees. Our driver hit the road running (figuratively) - Tess' (least) favourite trick was the 'overtake wildly on a blind corner,' which luckily for her was repeated at least twenty times throughout the drive. Aisha has tapped into a previously
3 wheels or GTFO!
unknown stream of zen fatalism for his time on the Indian highways (helped by the fact that most of the insanity only happens at about 50kph). But onwards and upwards we zipped, interrupted only by a stop for lunch. Once we really started climbing the road shrank from a two lanes to one, or if you're lucky, one and a half. The palm trees and coastal scrub gave way to dense jungle (we even saw a couple of monkeys next to the road!) and over the next few hours we climbed close to two vertical kilometres. At times the jungle edges right up to the road as if to wall it in, with dense, head high grass and vegetation leaning in, other times it opened up and we could look down to the river flowing next to the road and tiny villages perched on any flat scrap of land, all loomed over by huge mountains studded with vast expanses of stone.
After a long few hours, much exercise of the horn and some absolutely insanely wonderful scenery which defied most of our attempts to photograph it, we arrived in Munnar town. Our homestay at Royal Mist was about 10km
If you don't like photos of Tea... you might be in the wrong place.
out of town so we took a turn and descended through the tea plantations towards it. The tea plantations deserve a special mention, though they'll probably get more than one. They stretch like a patchwork blanket of green, intercut with the seams of paths and sewn in rows which trail up hill and down dale. Each tiny bushy shrub is rich with the dark green leaves that provide much of the region's income and add up to some 8-9% of India's tea growing capacity. Coffee and many spices are also grown here. The terrain is absolutely breathtaking to someone weaned on Australia's worn down, brown-toned alpine protrusions, with savagely steep hills looming up over the rippling series of valleys and ridges which wear the tea and spice plantations. Houses and little outcrops of habitation are dotted across the landscape, wedged onto tiny terraces wherever they can fit. Driving down through this with mouths agape we turned off on a small bumpy side road and in a couple of seconds we were there.
Of course by that point the 5.5 hours trip in a hot car and an early start had taken its toll so we'd virtually collapsed in a
Towards our homestay...
heap. After being welcomed by our bubbly host Anil and his wife Jeeva we made arrangements for our activities the next day and retired for a bit. The other couple staying at the place are also Australian (she from Lithuania and he from Scotland) and after we'd emerged for dinner at 7pm to find them eating on the terrace as well we struck up a conversation which was quite wide-ranging and provided plenty of opportunity for sharing India (and Australia) stories. They had actually planned to come to India a few years prior - they'd done the research, booked about eight flights, booked accommodation across India, had the shots, packed the bags - had their mates around for a farewell dinner the night before they were to fly out, when someone asked if they'd had any problems getting their visas for India. "Visas, you say?" and blank looks abounded. Yeah. EPIC FAIL. It was their last night in Munnar so we wished them bon voyage and took our leave to crash out (or write the blog entry, either one is fine). On reflection, we realised it had been the longest conversation/human interaction we've had with people other than ourselves in
the time we've been away. No (wo)man is an island and all that, so it was nice.
Well the next few days seem like they may involve some strolling around the hills AND ENJOYING TEMPERATE WEATHER!!!!! Ahhhhh. There'll probably be photos, you know us. But we'll cross that bridge (or blog entry) when we come to it. Till then, you know the drill.
Much love to our Homies
Aisha & Tess
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