Friday, February 02, 2007

Western Ghat Mountains aka The Cardamom Hills

November 2006
Amy and I flew from Mumbai to Kochi in Kerala for our 2-week vacation. After a couple of days in Fort Cochin exploring the markets and swimming at a beach, we took a taxi to Munnar in the Western Ghat Mountains. We ended up using taxis a lot as they are really cheap by Western standards (US$40 for a 4-5 hour trip) and much nicer than being crammed into a train or bus. In Munnar we stayed at a small 4-room hotel at the top of a ridge. There was a cooking lesson each night before dinner and we did some great hiking through the surrounding tea and cardamom plantations. We took a 2-hour auto rickshaw ride the last day up to Top Station where there are supposed to be awesome views of the surrounding mountains and the Tamil Nadu plains to the east. It was completely fogged in when we got there unfortunately but then the heavens opened for about 10 minutes while we were at the lookout and we had some great views.
The women here seem to do most of the manual labour. Only women pick tea and only women cook the meals, take care of the kids and do the housekeeping apparently. Not an easy life! But they all look so beautiful with their dark hair and eyes and their beautiful saris.
We also spent a couple of days in Kumily, which is also in the mountains. We did a jungle safari in an elephant and tiger preserve but didn’t manage to see any elephants or tigers! We missed a group of elephants by about 5 minutes but we did hear a bison and we say Nilgiri monkeys and giant squirrels as well as lots of birds. The monkeys are big – maybe 4 ft tall not including their tail – and they sound just like the monkey noises we learn to make as kids! I suppose I should be happy that we didn’t see any tigers but I wasn’t too worried as our guide had seen a tiger 3 times during the 7 years he had been working there.
One highlight of our stay in Kumily was the lizard that ran into the little spice shop Amy and I were in one afternoon. They managed to catch it and the picture I took of it was in the local paper the next day!

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