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Published: January 29th 2014
It is often a surprise to have a good night's sleep without too many beeps or other annoyances. This was a good night. I woke early to arrange photographs of Graham Leach for Facebook, it being one year since his demise. Catherine and I loaded them at the last minute before we left the hotel. By this time we had also accepted that our blog entries were going to be a fair way behind real time - just too much going on.
Today we were headed for Periya in the mountains of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Breakfast was a bit of a chaotic affair with a poorly lit buffet, and no concept of time-and-motion. People all over the place. We sat next to two younger men who were some sorts of sails executives in a major global beverage company. Nice gentlemen, but like always, focussed on grabbing market share from the other major global beverage company. The group had opted for a private coach rather than the optional local bus for 6 hours. This was of course very easy and comfortable. We moved quickly across the fertile plains through village after village separated by only a few kilometers. The differences
between the villages seemed very minor to me. I'm sure they see the differences as major and worth discussion. We stopped to photograph fields of cultivated flowers in full bloom. We crossed over a fast flowing stream and past a cascade. We stopped briefly and photographed the locals washing, working in the rice paddies and preparing to worship in a nearby temple. The greens were wonderfully rich, and the local women adorned with gold jewelry. Simple and pleasant. Before we again climbed up to a plateau, the minibus had to stop to pay Tamil Nadu taxes. We also enjoyed fresh young coconut juice from a roadside stall. The climb up was quite steep though the traffic not quite as crazy as the trip up to Coonoor. Perhaps we were just getting used to it? We passed by the pipes of a major hydro-electric facility which obviously complemented the wind power turbines we say further back down the valley. Periya is a quaint little place that is very conspicuous in it christianity. Our accommodation was in little wooden bungalows with columns made of old dry tree trunks, roughly finished. Gardens were neat and well manicured. Over lunch we talked with Jorg
about his architecture practice and the inspirations he was taking back home to northern Germany.
Walking around the town of Thekkady later, it was clear that business was very slow. The touting was a little more frantic perhaps. Catherine and I bought a travel bag and a silver dress ring, both of which were falling apart by the end of the trip. The ring was nice though - small squares of lapis, yellow sapphire and topaz arranged in a ladakhi style. We gathered more provisions for the likely drinks among friends. later in the evening.
At 1700 we joined a local martial arts (Kalaripayattu) performance. It was spectacular with real (well pretty) clashings of swords, and feats of yoga-style flexibility. The fire stick displays were real enough. I enjoyed capturing the photos with long exposures and 1600 iso speeds. Before each backflip from the mezzanine floor, the athletes would shake hands with the tourists sitting nearby. Kind of like, "we who are about to die salute you". Dinner was at a local buffet restaurant, but only after we had all gathered in a raised pavillion for drinks and a chat. There were no windows or doors, but thin
strands of fishing line were strung across the openings, presumably to stop jumping and flying beasts. As we walked home to our hotel after 10pm, touts took their last opportunity to secure a sail. During the night monkeys bounded across the roof.
We were without internet that night, so we could not interact with the rest of the family around the commemoration of Graham's passing. Thoughts were sufficient.
We rose at about 0600 and grabbed a cup of tea prior to the nature walk in the Periya National Nature Reserve. Four Tuk Tuks took us the few kilometers to the entrance of the reserve. A small herd of guar crossed in front of us and moved, unperturbed, off the road. We walked in and then to the banks of the lake which is the centre of the reserve. The water level was pretty low, though apparently that is nothing unusual for the time of year. We waited a little too long for the government-approved guide to lead us. It was a cool morning so we were rugged up. The webs of funnel web spiders stood out all around us; highlighted with microdrops of dew. First
step was crossing the closest arm of the lake on a rickety old bamboo raft. We were all pretty sure-footed so no whole body dunks. We got to watch a whole family of Langur monkey jump from tree to tree. A pair of giant squirrels peered down on us. At this stage I was regretting not bringing my telephoto lens on the grounds of minimal weight. Several sightings of herds of wild boar. Plenty of evidence of the presence of elephants, but again no actual sighting. And of course no tigers. Nice to be in the forest though.
Back at the hotel we prepared for our Ayuvedic massage. Catherine, Rob and I prepared for our 90 minute sessions. Separately of course. We were stripped off, and he provided me with the littlest of disposable loin cloths. My guy started by rubbing oil into my hair and scalp like there was no tomorrow. Almost uncomfortable. Then he proceeded to cover me with scented, warmed oils. Every square centimeter of my body was covered. Very nice aroma. I was then put into a steam cabinet for about 20 mins - as long as I could stand. Coming out I was a
slippery little critter. The towel-down was designed to remove all the dirt and toxins, and one would imagine a half-kilo of my hair. Fantastic. I can assure you Catherine and I slept like babies most of the afternoon.
Around sunset we all took Tuk Tuks up to a local man's famous garden. This guy Abrahim's father planted an impressive array of local spice plants and flowering bushes in his 2 acre garden. Abrahim himself took great efforts to show us each and every plant and tell us some of stories around its commercial uses. It was very pleasant though concentration was sometimes interrupted by the realization that he had the most amazing crop of ear hair any of us had ever seen, DJ our guide, enjoyed watching everyone's startled expressions. Apparently this garden has been featured in the book, "Around the World in 80 Gardens". Not sure if there are comments about ear hair. We stayed on for an excellent home cooked Kerala meal. Home early so plenty of time for some local Gin and Whisky outside the rooms. The girls in the group were surprised to learn that the German men go home to a cooked lunch every
working day of the year.
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