Tuesday 26 March 2013

Periyar - Day 10

In the cool Cardamon Hills  

Our quick departure from the beautiful backwaters of Kerala took us from humid tropical jungles to the clear cool fresh mountain air. No need for air conditioning in Periyar, at least not this visit!

After the Kalaripayattu show we returned to the Spice Village where our cottages were waiting. The room staff had been in, the beds were turned down, the screened windows open allowing a beautiful cross breeze. On the porch on either side of the door burned a mosquito coil. This allowed you to enter your room without bringing in those nasty little insects. I hadn't seen any but everyone worries so much about mosquitos when travelling in India it was one more reason to be completely comfortable at 'The Spice Village'. As you can see I recommend this hotel.

This morning we awoke to birds singing in the trees.  I took my sketch book and paints out to the porch, a perfect way to start the day. The staff were busy preparing cottages for arriving guests, but we were at leisure because India was on strike! No matter who explained it to me I just couldn't understand. I guess being from Canada is one of the reasons for this. Could you imagine your country going on strike for two days? I love India.

Strike in India: Reason behind Bharat Bandh

The strike meant only that we had to stay in Periyar. The shops in the town were not open, our driver was having a holiday.  We had a tour guide and he was willing to walk with us so after breakfast we met him in front of the hotel and we walked.  Everyone was excited we were going to see the elephants and if possible ride them. It was a pleasant walk, with  very little traffic and to our delight the monkeys came to the road to watch us.

The Elephant Junction

What a morning it turned out to be! Riding elephants, watching them have their bath, feeding them bananas and to top off the excitement, we each took a turn having the elephant bless us. How does an elephant bless you? You muster all the courage you have, stand before the elephant and slowly the elephant places his/her trunk on your head. In your mind you say, bless you, you smile and move so the next person may receive a blessing.

After watching all the blessing taking place in Rome this week I wonder if the Pope could use some help?

Our tour guide took us into the jungle to see where many of the spices we use came from. I was amazed when he stopped at a tree and scraped away a little bark. Smell here, he said, so we did... Cinnamon! I didn't know that cinnamon was a tree. There is lots I don't know but each time I travel I learn something new. I have to or my trip is not a success. This trip was a success, over and over again. Now to remember.

Back at the Spice Village lunch was being served. We had the option to eat in the main dining room or try the outdoor grill. The grill it was! The sign said "Prawns 800 INR'S", this is about $16,00 CAD so sharing with someone made the meal the right price. The prawns are huge and oh so tasty. While waiting we enjoyed the day, a perfect temperature, guinea fowl scampered across the lawn, the gin and tonic was cold and the chef in his tall white hat, under a canopy of orange flowers, grilled our lunch.

Back in my room my laundry was waiting. The Dhobi picked up my things in the morning and returned them clean and pressed, in a lovely wicker basket. You don't have to take too many clothes to India because this special service is available in all accommodations. Everyone wants to take the Dhobi home. I think we might have passed him while walking in the village. He stood at the side of the road, his iron heated by coals from a fire (this is the same iron we see in our museums that were used by settlers to Canada when there was no electricity).

The Dhobi does a beautiful job and for someone like me, who only irons when it is absolutely necessary, a big big treat!

Resting and relaxing in Periyar.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Periyar - Day 9

We woke to rain. With the air conditioning pumped up in the room and the heat and the rain outside the world looked like it was about ten shades of grey. While we slept the colours of the backwaters had washed away.  A strange feeling.

Life continues here as in most places of the world when it rains, the people of the backwaters could be seen moving along the shore heading to where their day would take them and we would be doing the same. Our driver was waiting for us at the prescribed meeting place so breakfast was served, our luggage collected and we left our boat for our journey to Periyar.

I wasn't pleased about this move as I was looking forward to the two nights and days on the backwaters. It is a magical place. Even though the weather was not our reason for leaving the rain helped us feel that moving on was a good idea.

Our van climbed up, around and through, switching back and forth as it followed the roads. The view out the window continued to be more expansive as we climbed and the valleys became further away. The trees along the road changed from a forest of palms to organized plantations of mango, banana and cashew trees.  The hill were planted (stepped) with neat rows of tea.

Periyar, our destination, is in the middle of a mountainous area of the Cardamom Hills. Elevation 2000 ft. The sun was shining and the heat of the lowlands was left behind. Our accommodation was an ecolodge called Spice Village. Our accommodation a thatched cottage in a garden. Perfect.

Our driver had pointed out as we passed through the village an opportunity to experience Kerala's martial-arts, Kalaripayattu.

From Kadathanadan Kalari Centre, Thekkady: "Kalaripayattu - the oldest of martial arts - is a gift to the modern world and known as the mother of all martial arts. Legend traces the 3000-year old art form to sage Parasurama, the master of all martial art forms and credited to be the re-claimer of Kerala from the Arabian Sea. Kalaripayattu originated in ancient South India. Kung-fu, popularized by the monks of the shaoline temple traces its ancestry to Bodhi Dharma - an Indian Buddhist monk and Kalaripayattu master."

It was an amazing performance. If you are travelling in Kerala and have this opportunity, don't pass it up. I almost did as I try to stay away from anything I feel is promoting fighting. This would have been a mistake on my part. The presentation was a beautiful dance.