God's country and the land of nod
Trip Start Oct 28, 2006
22Trip End Jan 09, 2007
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Anyway, from Ooty we journeyed (sounds better than "sat on train") towards the South-Western state of Kerala. I was really excited bout visiting this state. Throughout the trip a lot of the best Indians I've met have come from Kerala. Every one of them insisted that I visit their home-state and see the beauty of "God's own country". No other state seems to engender such strong patriotism in it's people.
Kerala is also kind of interesting considering it has the worlds first democratically elected communist government. This government has ruled for most of the last 30 or so years. It's a system that has worked pretty well here. Kerala has the India's most highly educated population, particularly with respect to female education.
My week in Kerala has taught me two important things;
1. Kerala is truly beautiful
2. Sleep is also truly beautiful
We arrived in the capital, Cochin, after an O/N train and immediately set off for Fort Cochin. It' a beautiful old area with strong Portuguese, Jewish and colonial english influences. My first mission was to bite the bullet and subject/treat myself to an Ayurvedic massage.
Over he course of the following hour I got to know two large Indian chaps far better than I ever expected to. This process as expedited by the lubricating powers of a couple of liters of oil. It was a (largely) pleasant experience, albeit punctuated with the occasional "oh oh... OK relax... he's just doing his job" moment. Essentially, it's a very superficial massage that traces patterns all across your body. It's nice to focus in on the patterns and sense your body parts in relation to each other. That said, I don't see myself getting another, I guess I'd almost feel unfaithful to my two Fort Cochin buddies.
That night we went to see some classical Indian music (sitar and tabla) and some classical Indian dance; Kathkali. Kathkali is the retelling of the Hindu epics through a combination of dance, pantomime and music. It's all really quite intricate with defined facial expressions and a system of almost sign language. Although it's incredibly atmospheric with the drums and voice of the singer rising an falling throughout the performance, particularly during the crescendos. The singer had this amazing chanting singing which was mesmerizing. I followed the general gist of the story and remained pretty confused about all the finer details. To be honest that's a pretty good description of most of my Indian interactions in general.
V.early the next day we set off for the Keralan backwaters near Allepy. Our plans to rent a houseboat had been scuttled by the late bail out of a couple of guys from UQ. We decided to salvage the day by organizing a canoe an guide to tour around with. It was a great lazy day, with a whole lot of floating along, listening to good tunes, taking photos, reading and occasionally pitching in with the paddling. Our guide was a bit of a dude with a v.Indian sense of humor ie. not a very funny one. Basically he would continue to repeat the same joke until you obliged him with a laugh. I'm sure he considered his jokes so amazingly funny that only a lack of understanding on my behalf could prevent me from breaking down in hysterics. I still liked him though, even after he took us to some dodgy backwaters moonshine bar where they drink Toddy, a fermented coconut juice. Word from the wise: don't ever drink toddy. It seemed like a pretty idyllic lifestyle for those living along the backwaters, with rich land and abundant fish (although I really don't know what I'm talking about here).
The next day we set off fro Munnar, another tea growing hill station. I rally need to stress that by this point we were exhausted. It's always easy to shave a few hrs of sleep here and there, and to fail to catch up at all after some overnight travel. Basically, who wants to sleep when you've got all the excitement of India waiting outside your door. The problem is that the tired I get the more emotionally labile and fragile I get (I'm sure many of you have witnessed this). India is not the place to be fragile. I think that India is ALWAYS overwhelming. However, when you've got energy it's a great kind of overwhelming, you just Step into it and see where it takes you. Without energy it's just plain overwhelming.
So we arrived in munnar in the arvo and realized hat we really needed to crash earl and get a great nights sleep. In the late arvo we grabbed a couple of tasty parottas as a snack. These were not good parottas. These were bad parottas. Poisoned parottas.
That was a bad night. My mouth and anus waged an epic competition to see who could void the greatest volume during the night. This left me with the occasional dilemma when they threatened a little synchronized action. Due to my superior (or inferior?) immune system I came down with it about 4hrs before Clint. Basically, by the middle of the night that room wasn't a pleasant place to be.
The following morning i was absolutely exhausted. However, we' already arranged an overnight stay in a tree house inside a nearby national park. It was a ~30min trek to reach the isolated hut. This was daunting considering i could barely lift my pack. Anyway we made it/ The trek there was actually really cool. We saw some wild elephants along the way and Clint and I started excitedly yelling out to each other. That was until our panicked guide shushed us and made us back away up th path. Turns out wild elephants aren't always as friendly as the Disney movies would have us believe.
The tree house was basic but still great. It was ~8m up the big ol' tree near the intersection of two rivers. Pretty sweet hey! The guides that cam with us also provided food. When I asked what dinner was they proudly told me it was parotta. At which point my stomach gave a bit of a riverdance impression. It was great though, sitting around the fire with the river running beside us and then falling asleep right in the midst of it all. The next day we did a bit of hiking around the park we saw a few more elephants, some deer, some peacock. Elephants really are quite cool, the group we were watching seemed to spend most of their time play fighting or knocking down trees. That's the sort of entertainment that crosses all species barriers.
Anyway, that covers Kerala, or at least my bit of it. I've really got get up to date with this blog. Gotta go...