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Entries about ecotourism

Munnar ...

despite all the climbing it's still my cup of tea

sunny 22 °C

Munnar equals tea plantations. In fact, as we drove from Thekkady we knew we’d arrived in Munnar when the tea plantations started.

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Close to 7,000 feet above sea level, Munnar is a very lush, green, picturesque hill station that is totally unspoiled – home to tea, coffee and cardamom plantations.

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The drive was long, but gorgeous and we stopped several times to take pictures – and to sample some water coconuts – they look nothing like the ‘hairy’ cocoa-coloured coconuts we’re used to at home. These are bigger, smooth, greenish and need to have their tops hacked off with a hatchet – easier said than done. Then you can drink the coconut water, which is delicious – and then you eat the jelly.

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It’s very good.

Our resort – Tall Trees – is up a very steep incline – and keeps inclining – even to get to the restaurant it’s all uphill. We each had our own two-story cottage, set amongst – you guessed it – tall trees.

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The setting is gorgeous – very eco-friendly – full of colourful flowers and leaves and trees of every shape and description. And, it’s located on a 66-acre cardamom plantation. Just glorious – and certainly as opposite to the luxury we experienced in Rajasthan as can be.

This is nature at its best -- rustic … pure … simple. Waterfalls, lakes, streams and hills abound. It can also be quite cool, although we’re lucky. It’s sunny and lovely.

Last night Marney and Rashmi were afraid we’d be cold so they called and asked for some hot water bottles for all of us to keep in our beds (we got them in the desert and also at Spice Village). They were told this resort “doesn’t provide that service” … but lo and behold, just a few minutes went by and there was a knock at their door.

There stood a young hotel employee proudly carrying a tray upon which stood five, 500 ml plaster drinking water bottles which they’d made hot for us. Very sweet indeed – and very creative thinking too. That’s what they’re like here. They will do anything to make you feel welcome and cherished.

This morning after breakfast we visited a tea plantation and learned how tea is processed – you will be sorry to learn that the awful truth is that the dregs of the batch get shipped to North America. Then we went to a nursery where I went insane shooting pictures of flowers – and also saw members of a women’s club who were all dressed in turquoise saris – set amongst the flowers it was just a breathtaking sight.

More water coconuts on the side of the road, a nice lunch at a buffet restaurant near town, a walk through Munnar Village and back to the hotel for dinner (and hopefully to watch at least part of Obama’s inauguration – it will be the first time in a month I’ve watched TV. We’ve had TV everywhere we’ve been but I’ve not put it on once. After my third day in India I stopped reading newspapers too – even the local ones.

I have no idea what’s going on in the world and right now I don’t care. I guess I’ll find out soon enough, because tomorrow we go to Cochin – we’re there for one night – and then it’s back home.

This month has gone so quickly I can’t believe it’s virtually over. This has been the most marvelous experience. I’ll be back …

Posted by a_broad 03:25 Archived in India Tagged ecotourism Comments (5)

thekkady

a cool mountain town in the Cardamom Hills

sunny 21 °C

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More time to unwind in our lovely, tranquil resort (Spice Village) set 3,000 feet above sea level – each of us with our own, thatched-roof cottage.

As soon as we got settled in Marney and Cynthia went on a plantation tour. Haidee, Rashmi and I opted to go into town (a 2-minute walk) instead. Yes, we went shopping, but I feel compelled to mention that while I am doing a lot of shopping it is not costing a lot of money:

When you shop at the markets like we are you are spending anywhere from 150 to 350 rupees on pants, tops, scarves – which, loosely translated, comes to between $1 to $2.50 in U.S. dollars. In Samode (at the start of our trip) I got three silver bangles for $7, for example.

In cities like Mumbai you pay much more in the fancy shops where you’d swear you were on Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive – but that’s not where we’ve gone. This is much more fun, actually – and we’ve all become experts at haggling.

I will be having hernia surgery when I come home, though, because my bags are becoming heavier and heavier … and I’m needing more and more pieces of luggage.

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On this particular sojourn in the shops the three of us met Deepak – one of the most wonderful guys you’ll ever meet. His English was fantastic – which he credits the 18 years he spent with hippies in Goa for. He’s a philosopher, a charmer, a fabulous salesman, an entrepreneur (he’s got three stores in Thekkady), and an all around great guy. We even met his son and his wife – and soon we were all having masala tea – courtesy of his wife, who made it at home for us and brought it to the store.

We were there for a long time and we all walked out with bags and bags full – wonderful silk ‘laundry’ bags.

Back at the resort I tried to get on the internet – to no avail. I had a feeling it would be spotty in the South – and in fact, I never could use it in Thekkady. So instead we went to a cooking class – which was very interesting and delicious as well. Then we enjoyed some local entertainment and a wonderful dinner.

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Kerala is known for seafood so I’m in heaven.

You can’t keep your eyes open here past 10 pm. I think I read the same two lines of my book four times and just had to turn off the lights. As I fell asleep I was serenaded by crickets. That’s the last thing I remember.

Up bright and early the next day, I wandered around taking pictures of all the plants – you have no idea what grows here – cinnamon, teak, curry leaves, coffee, tea, ginger, pepper, and on and on the list goes.

Haidee and Marney went on a three-hour nature hike – Spice Village is right near the Lake Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. I opted not to because I didn’t feel like exposing myself to lots of mosquitos – especially as I didn’t think they’d see a lot of animals – which, in the end, they didn’t.

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Instead I checked out the property, watched a man carve earrings and serving pieces from teak and coconut shells, relaxed and went back to town. I had thought I’d have an ayurvedic massage, but in the end I didn’t even want to do that.

After all the activity of recent weeks it was nice to just veg in the beautiful, calming, serene place. At the end of the day we went to a spice market and loaded up on ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla and cardamom and masala mix for tea and coffee and seasoning for every conceivable kind of curry – fish, chicken, vegetable, lamb – and we also got some oils – musk, eucalyptus, aloe vera, special massage oil for sore joints – our luggage will be very fragrant on the return trip home.

What gave us all a giggle was when three women (neighbours who were out shopping together) asked if they could take their pictures with us. For close to a month now we’ve been asking the locals if we can take their photos – this time the tables were turned – and we were the novelty.

You have know idea how excited and happy they were when we said “yes”. The whole village turned out for the event – you wouldn’t believe the size of the crowd that gathered. It was really sweet.

Dinner at a local restaurant (another feast – with main dishes costing in the range of 100 rupees – less than $2) and again, early to bed.

How I got everything I bought into my suitcase I will never know, but the Gods were smiling on me for sure …

Posted by a_broad 02:04 Archived in India Tagged ecotourism Comments (1)

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