A Travellerspoint blog

Munnar

I don't care how cheesy it sounds, but one of the reasons i'm so drawn to travel is because of where it takes you and the beauty it uncovers. Munnar is one of those places where the scenery takes your breath away. It reminded me a lot of the plantations in Colombia, and while the main crop is tea leaves, a whole array of other spices, plants and vegetation thrive here too, as we were soon to find out.

We left Fort Cochin at 6.30am yesterday morning, still dark and yet already warm. I was particularly excited to see that the vehicle we would be travelling in was an old Ambassador; the car you often associate with India that looks like it belongs in the 1950s. No air-con didn't seem to be a problem as somehow it kept us cooler that any of the other cars we'd been in. As we left the bustling, dusty towns behind us and drove into the lush green landscapes of Kerala's plantations, the air became free of pollution and dirt and we welcomed the freshness of it all. Our driver kept pulling over so we could reach out of the window to grab a leaf or plant from the side of the road to crush, smell and guess what it was. Lemon-grass, cinnamon, nutmeg, dal, vanilla and pineapple plants were just a few.

Just after 9am we pulled over at a large lake and saw elephants. We then proceeded up the long windy mountain roads to Munnar, past waterfalls and numerous spice farms. Eventually, and with several near misses of other drivers, we reached the top. Miles and miles of mountains and valleys all luscious green and wonderfully irregular in size and height. The trea leaves were everywhere, and as we got closer we could see women picking them across the hills.

But the best was yet to come. We'd each paid around £25 for a driver for two days, entry into a spice farm, all our food and overnight stay. The overnight stay was a homestay, but not just any homestay. A private house set at the top of one of the mountains overlooking the entire network of valleys and plantations below. The balcony was huge and gave immense 360 degree views across the landscape around us. Amanda and I agreed it could have been one of the best places we've ever stayed.

Tonight we are back in Kochi and it's our last night in India. We've just heard the weather is awful in UK and neither of us is relishing the thought of getting off the plane in Manchester to temperatures more than 30 degrees less than what we've been used to here. On our last night we will be eating...Italian! I know I know but India has broken me! Plus its not all bad-the guy who owns the restaurant / makes the food is from Kerala and shares our same passion for world travel so I won't feel like a total loser ordering pasta from a local!

This blog is nearly coming to an end here, hope you've enjoyed them :)

Posted by hanaldinho 04:57 Comments (0)

The backwaters of Allepey

Fort Cochin has a more laid back vibe than Delhi, Mumbai and Agra, which isn't surprising given its size. Arriving in Allepey transported us right back to the mayhem that is Indian industry. Allepey is a major town for exporting spices, cashew nuts, chocolate and rice. The streets were packed with small shops, people, spice stalls, cars, tuck-tucks and on this particular day, two very sweaty travellers trying to navigate our way through it all and find a houseboat. We tried bartering with a couple of guys, and eventually booked a houseboat for the next day.

Houseboats are big tourism business in Kerala and they dont come cheap. Well, compared to everything else here! Beautifully crafted and I assumed traditional looking, we got a boat with one room for two people. 3 brothers and a cook joined us and together they served us well with an amazing tour of the backwaters and lakes around Allepey, alongside delicious Keralan food. It was so relaxing to travel slowly through the waters surrounded by palm trees, rice paddies and little villages. Baking hot, we got a slight breeze which made the temperature bearable. When the boat anchored we were able to jump to the land and get a closer peek at the little villages. We were greeted by loads of adorable children wanting photos and pens?! As it grew dark we got back onto the boat and lay in bed with the gentle swaying of the water which I was worried would remind me of my vertigo feeling but it was fine. In fact i've not had vertigo since a couple of days into India and i'm hoping the heat here has killed off the virus! Our tummies on the other hand have been less than happy, Amanda seems to be getting over her stomach irritation but I am struggling to keep anything down. So i've decided to embrace the coconut and ginger tea diet until I come home.

Our ride back to Kochi was amusing, and distracted me from my nausea. Firstly we were picked up by an eccentric tuck tuck driver who thought nothing of knocking over a motorcycle parked on the side of the road as he pulled up to us. Then we were driven in a taxi with a man who loved europop band Aqua and was ranting about the UK's high tax rate compared to India which is apparently just 7%.

Tomorrow we are headed to Munnar to see the tea and spice plantations. We'll be back to Kochi late Friday and then we have to decide what to do on our last day in India...beach or massage. We were favouring the beach as we've had no time to sunbathe and hence still white, but a massage would be awesome.

Love to everyone in the UK, we'll be home soon :) x

Posted by hanaldinho 08:08 Comments (0)

Mumbai to Kochi

On Saturday morning Amanda and I sat in Mumbai Airport, positioned very closely to the toilets, with our copies of Shantaram on our laps and looking like we both needed a good wash. I felt like such a cliche.

Until that point we'd both become a bit cocky about travelling India. We had avoided the dreaded Delhi belly and contrary to my first blog and impressions of India, we both felt really safe and getting around had been pretty straightforward. Once you get past the overwhelming volume of traffic, people, dogs, pollution and dirt, its actually a very relaxing country. I'd even started walking out confidently into the roads and putting my hand out to stop the traffic racing towards us at excessive speed so we could cross. Kalik, our free local guide in Mumbai, had taught us this was a much better way of crossing the roads than trying to run across them which makes drivers carry on at full speed. Its a miracle we've not been flattened. Despite our constant sanitising and careful avoidance of ice, tampered water bottles and washed fruit or salad, we both got sick as we were leaving Mumbai. It wasnt anything too serious and its not really surprising as you get dirty just walking around. But neither of us could stomach any food and we greatly welcomed being in the airport which felt like the cleanest place we'd been in a week.

We flew to Kochi in the south of India, a region called Kerala. It is extremely hot and humid down here, Kochi is made up of islands and hundreds of palm trees and miles of backwaters. We've spent the last two days in Fort Cochin which is accessed by an old ferry that fills up with taxis, motorbikes, old Ambassadors, tuck tucks and people to carry you across the water for just 2 rupees. Whilst on the ferry I nearly suffocated in the heat and petrol fumes and so by the time we'd found somewhere in Fort Cochin with a room available that night, we both collapsed on our beds. Fort Cochin is pretty touristy but there are some really funky laid back bars and places to eat that made me forget I was in India. Neither of us managed to eat a lot in the two days we were there but what we did have was good quality and still really cheap.

Yesterday we took a bus (yes John a bus, no a van) with no windows and banging Bhangra music to Cherai beach where we could only manage an hour in the baking heat. People in the south also want to have their photo taken with us which we both admit to enjoying, perhaps a bit too much. Its apparent to us that a lot of foreigners come to India to "find themselves" and embrace humility and here are Amanda and I loving the fact we are treated like celebrities and posing all over the place! Well you've got to have a bit of fun while you're travelling...

Today we travelled south to Allepay, a tropical town and gateway into the network of backwaters which we are going to see tomorrow. On a houseboat. I'm hoping our tummies will be better by then so we can try the local fish.

As I write this, Amanda is creeping around our hotel room obsessively trying to swat a mosquito. We are sharing many an amusing moment out here and her determined face is one of them. Boddingtons against the Mossies, I know who my money's on :)

Posted by hanaldinho 04:56 Comments (0)

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