Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tea in the Clouds

The mountains and tea plantations of Munnar

We traveled from Periyar to Munnar with Pia and Ina, our German friends. Munnar is also a national park and contains Indias highest peak outside of Himalaya - Ana Mudi 2695 m. So naturally Guy got all excited about climbing it. The trouble is, in India, such things are just not really possible. As with Periyar, the entrance to the park was extremely expensive and you were only permitted to walk for 1km! So Guy dragged Emma up the snake infested mountain (we actually saw no snakes) and we broke into the national park. Liberation? Not really: With no maps available we could only guess as to which was Ana Mudi. Well several hours of trekking through jungle, tea plantations and along dry rivers, we got to around half way up the sheer rock sides of the mountain. And there we were in the tea plantations, in the clouds. It was very beautiful and we felt pleased to have a self guided trek in the mountains. Emma saw a puma sprinting through the jungle ahead, after 5 minutes discussing the possibility of it eating us, we proceeded forth, discovering it was just big jet black monkeys!

Top Station, Munnar with Pia and Ina

We really enjoyed the cool climate of Munnar and could have stayed longer, but it was time to travel back to the coast; Fort Kochi. We stayed with Pia and Ina for a couple of relaxing nights and ambled around the town, enjoying good food and games of Hearts!  We also ticked another box of "things to do" in Kerala and went to see the Katakali dancing. A very interesting experience - from the men applying their make-up, demonstration of eye movements and gestures to rhythmical drumming, to a 40 minute performance (these performances usually last for 7 hours).  The photo really cannot capture the whole atmosphere of the drumming, singing, bell ringing, conch blowing, eyball-jiggling and dancing!

Chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi

The evil God of the Katakali performance

After looking at a large map of India, it became apparent that we have covered little ground in this vast land, it was time to travel North. So we waved goodbye to Kerala from our overnight sleeper and headed to the city of Mysore (via Bangalore) in Karnataka. On arrival, we both felt that Mysore was the least chaotic city of India we had traveled to, with less traffic, less people and a slightly cooler climate. However, we soon became wise to the fact that many people in Mysore are very good at bending the truth and leading travelers astray from their plans - we were taking to beedie factories, incense factories, silk emporiums, and markets galore! We traveled around the city for the day with Mirza and Felix, two very entertaining gents from Switzerland, visiting the Hindu temples of Chamundi hill, the largest palace in India and more silk emporiums. The sheer opulence of the palace inside shocked us, along with having to bribe the guards to take cameras inside!

Mysore Palace - former Maharaja abode

The Wedding Chamber

My favorite photo to date - Hindu temple within the palace

The next leg of our travels is an overnight train to Gokarna, Om beach - as recommended by Mirza and Felix. And if you are reading this, it was very amusing to meet you we'll see you in Switzerland soon, perhaps we'll bring the little train!

Refreshing freshly squeezed sugar cane and ginger beverage, our new favorite!

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