Tea - the best drink of the day....

Trip Start Nov 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
British County homestay

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Friday, November 23, 2012

The Lonely Planet guide says that if you visit central Kerala, there are three "must do's". We'd done two, the Backwaters and the tuk tuk around Fort Kochi so only the visit to the Tea Plantations around Munnar remained and so we booked it. It's a two day trip and the one we selected - they're all pretty similar - included a trip to the elephant orphanage/training centre, a visit to the waterfall, a view of the dam, an overnight stay in a simple homestay with stunning views across the valley and a trip to "High Station" (to see the amazing views over the Western Ghats!) as well as the tour around the Tea Museum at Munnar.

1. The Elephant sanctuary. We arrived just before 8.30am, elephant bathtime, and were pleased/priviledged to have three young orphan elephants walked past us to the river. Fantastic. It became less fantastic though when the mahouts needed to bash the elephants with sticks to get them to do their bidding. The three young elephants did, however, appear to enjoy their wallowing in the shallow river which, incidentally, was shared by a number of locals at their morning ablutions.

2. The waterfall. There were two waterfall stops and they were ok - as waterfalls go, but the five of us on our trip spent far longer trying to get decent snaps of he monkeys that were gathered in the trees in the hope - and certainty - of getting some titbits from the passers-by.

3. The dam. What a pathetic specimen! I have to say that we have far nicer dams and reservoirs in Wales!

4. The overnight homestay. The homestay was simple (basic!) which was fine and as expected. The "stunning views" were somewhat hampered by the thick mist/cloud cover that drifted in and out of the valley. On a clear day, the location would, I'm sure, have been perfect - sadly, we missed it at it's best! [Jane: Being a great garden / plant lover, Phil fails to mention the stunning plants - a rose that would cause Davis Austin to shudder, but nevertheless a reasonable specimen; hydrangeas, dahlias, hedges of poinsettias, trees - as yet unidentified but with glorious orange flowers, extremely large specimens of eucalyptus & rubber trees, hibiscus and brugmansia by the hedge-load! Wonderful!] (Phil: Yawn!!!!!!)

5. Munnar and the Tea Museum. Munnar is a dump! And it was raining! And we couldn't find a bar to get a Kingfisher! But what we were directed to was an "offie" to buy some take-outs. The offie was, in effect, a cage with a tiny hole and vast supplies of newspaper for the (Muslim) punters to take away their purchases in. And it was the busiest shop in town. Chris and I queued with the "alcy's" for our fix. Strangely, we, as "Westerners with no shame" didn't get our alcohol disguised as fish'n'chips like the locals did!
And the Tea Museum - that was something else. It was a quite interesting display of the 140 year history of the plantation which, incidently, covers miles and miles of the nearby hillside and is fantastic to see. [Jane: Horticultural note - tea plants are definitely trees - not bushes - and the whole effect was like acres of cloud pruning!]  Sadly, the talk about the processing of the leaves was incomprehensible to most non-Indians so was completely lost on us. We did get to sample some strange concoction which masqueraded as tea though and the spectacle of the car parking arrangements was stunning. If there are any traffic/logistics engineers out there that fancy a challenge, then this is the place for you!

6. And so, all that was left was "High Station" where we were hoping to see the whole of the South of the sub-continent. What we hadn't banked on was heavy overnight rain and thick, thick cloud cover. The 38km to the top took a couple of hours along mountain tracks made - let's say "interesting" - by landslides, mud and the like, and when we arrived, we could see diddlysquat! Absolutely zilch! So we returned, back to the homestay for lunch which, sadly, had an unfortunate effect on me just before we were to embark on the 120km trip back to Kochi. And the 120km took us four hours. And the roads in India are appalling. But, for the sake of completeness of this tale I can report that I did get back without any embarrassment!

Bonus time:  Probably the highlight of our two day trip was when our driver spotted proper real wild elephants just across the lake from where we were.  It was great to see them unchained and just going about their own business without any humans trying to whip them into doing what they wanted!

Our conclusion is that we're glad we did it because if we'd not, we would have wondered what we'd missed, and we do think that if the weather had been better, it would have been a better trip. But the truth is that at 2000 metres above sea level, up in the mountains, there's every chance you're going to encounter bad weather....
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Sally on

Wow it seems like you're STILL having a great time! We're so jealous - it's so wet and miserable here. Really enjoying your Blog. x

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