A Travellerspoint blog

February 2016

Thrissur to Wadakkanchery

February 29, 2016

semi-overcast 38 °C
View Sri Lanka, The Maldives and India on katdill's travel map.

Don spent quite a bit of time trying to change our hotel reservation in Madurai. We decided we didn't want to spend so much time in the big city and more time up in the hills. It was quite frustrating for him and finally we went out to look around the area and try to make a phone call to Agoda, the travel company. We visited a nearby mall, which was six stories built around a fountain courtyard. Very nice fountain going from the ceiling to the bottom. The mall is open air and you don't get any air conditioning until you go into a store. The stores all seemed very over staffed to me. The mall was not busy and some of the shops had four or five people working or rather standing around waiting. We both got our hair cut - for 170 rupees - 3.50 CAD.
Looking down from the top floor

Looking down from the top floor


I thought it seemed so hot because we had been up in the hills and now we were back in the lowlands. But Don checked the weather and the temperature was 38!!!
We wandered on trying to find some way to make a phone call. The phone we got in Sri Lanka doesn't seem to work here - or else it's so expensive to use here that I've used up all my balance and don't know how to get more time on it. After asking in many different mobile stores, finally a young man on the street told us we needed to go to the train station to use a phone booth. So we got a tuk tuk and at the train station managed to successfully make the call.
We returned to our hotel and got our taxi to take us to Wadakkanchery. I had thought this would be a luxurious ride in comparison to the bus, but we were jammed with our luggage into a tiny little car about the size of a smart car! At least it had air conditioning. In 1/2 hour or so, we were at our hotel in Wadakkanchery.
After resting for awhile, letting the heat of the day cool down a little, we went out exploring. Don wanted to find a short-cut so we walked down a back lane, which dead-ended. A man spoke to us from his yard about where we wanted to go and he and his wife invited us into their house. We met his mother and their two sons. The eldest son, Francis, did a lot of the talking because he seemed to have the best English and could understand us. They gave us lemonade to drink and a little taste of some dahl for Don and papaya for me. Very friendly folk! The parents, whose names we did not get, are taking a tour to the USA in July. When we left, they sent the eldest son with us to make sure we made it back to the main road safely.
The family in their lovely home

The family in their lovely home


We had heard there was some program happening down at the temple in town. So away we go to see what's up. The main road thru town has a bamboo construction by the temple entrance. This is put up just for the festival. Amazing! It spans the road so vehicles pass under it.
One side

One side

The other side

The other side


The paraphernalia the elephants wear tomorrow

The paraphernalia the elephants wear tomorrow


We found a bunch of speech making men in the temple courtyard when we arrived so we moved on. There was some kind of exhibition going on, which we had to buy tickets for. After standing in line for the tickets, we went in and found the crowd was very controlled. You could only walk thru a tunnel with vendors booths on one side until you had walked around the perimeter of the grounds. It was packed with people - no question of stopping to look at anything - just get thru it and get out! Claustrophobics beware!
Looking back at Don in the tunnel

Looking back at Don in the tunnel

Finally, we ducked out under a side wall and ended up in the amusement park part. Rides for the kids with parent watching and of course a food booth. Watched them make sugar cane juice to sell.
Making cane juice

Making cane juice


Finally, we found a way out and went back past the temple again. Now there was a dance performance on, with kids doing their dance numbers. Cute, but not enough to persuade my stomach that it didn't need to eat!
Dancers on stage

Dancers on stage


So we hustled back to our hotel and tried out the hotel restaurant - not very good, but at least close to bed!

Posted by katdill 18:44 Archived in India Comments (0)

Dancing in Thrissur

February 28, 2016

sunny 32 °C
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This morning we got a car to take us and our luggage up to the main road to catch a bus. This is much easier than going into Munnar to the bus stand. It takes about 1/2 hour to get in there and then you ride the same way back again to leave town. The buses stop for anyone who sticks their hand out in the appropriate way. So we got on a bus. We thought we needed to go to Ernakulam and then on to Thrissur, but this bus was going to Aluva. A kind English speaking man on the bus explained we could go to Aluva and catch a bus to Thrissur from there, and it would be much shorter and quicker. So away we went. It took about 3 hours to get to Aluva (we'd been told 4 to Ernakulam) and then after about a 15 minute wait, we got on a bus to Thrissur. This bus was almost empty, which was quite a treat for us. It didn't stop very often and got to Thrissur after about 1 1/2 hours. So we saved time and money.
After arriving at our hotel, we were offered a cup of tea, (yes please) and then a little while later, a snack of a rice flour crepe (think lefse) with a filling of shredded fresh coconut with cardamon and sugar. Delicious. We may have to try making these at home. We had them in Sri Lanka (or something very similar) and have had them several times here in Kerala.
The owner of the hotel told us there was a dance performance at the nearby temple tonight. He also suggested a restaurant for us to have supper in - he was assuming after the performance. We hadn't really had much lunch - food we consider edible is pretty hard to come by on the bus - so we went out early and found the restaurant and ate before the performance.
A place for women who are out to eat without being bothered by men

A place for women who are out to eat without being bothered by men

One of the many curious English uses we have seen

One of the many curious English uses we have seen


We did not have any idea what kind of dance performance this would be - would it be like the school celebration with little kids? or would it be a competition? It turned out to be two professional dancers, male and female, dancing 6 different dances which interpreted different stories from Hindi scriptures. It was amazing, they danced for 1 1/2 hours with very little interval between dances and expressed so much emotion with such economical hand, head and face movements.
Oddissi dance

Oddissi dance

Just beautiful

Just beautiful

Posted by katdill 08:15 Archived in India Comments (0)

Walking the Neighbourhood

February 27, 2016

semi-overcast 30 °C
View Sri Lanka, The Maldives and India on katdill's travel map.

Don gets up every morning and takes more sunrise photos, we have such a beautiful view he just can't resist.
Sunrise from our patio

Sunrise from our patio

View of our homestay from the back

View of our homestay from the back


We decided to do a walk that our host had suggested - approximately 8 kilometres. We found one road he told us to take was blocked off, so we tried another one. This was a little road that passed along the river bank and by people's homes. Nice and shady and lots of birds to watch. We eventually came out on a bigger road and had to follow it awhile to do a big loop. We ended back at the homestay about 3 hours later, hot and tired and ready for a rest. Some of the sights on this walk, were women carrying home cow feed on their heads and power line workers working without a safety net!!
Yikes - scary to watch.
Carrying the feed home

Carrying the feed home

I am a lineman for the county...

I am a lineman for the county...


Later in the afternoon, we tried it again and found the blocked road was passable for walkers, just not for vehicles, so we went down to the river and crossed the bridge. There is a resort over there with a small tea planting around it. Very picturesque. We walked along the river for awhile and then followed the road back towards the loop we had walked in the morning. I got tired of the up and down of the road and said it's tuk tuk time. So we flagged one down and went home for supper that way. Thank heavens for tuk tuks, they are almost everywhere and are so handy and cheap!The river

The river

Bamboo raft for crossing the river

Bamboo raft for crossing the river

Strange sights seen on the walk

Strange sights seen on the walk

Lion carved in cavern under the building above

Lion carved in cavern under the building above

Posted by katdill 02:49 Archived in India Comments (0)

Touring Munnar

February 26, 2016

sunny 30 °C
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We arranged to share a car and driver with Maarten and Lena, a young couple staying at The Shade. They have the room right next to us on the lower level of the house. We have a breakfast patio with a gorgeous view out over the valley and the mountains.
Our driver picked us up at 9:00 am and away we went. First up to Top Station, which is a viewpoint on top of a mountain. We were attempting to get there before the clouds rolled in, but we were too late. Maarten suggested we have a cup of chai from one of the many vendors at the top, and while we were waiting for the tea, the clouds started to lift. So we paid the extra little fee to go down some steep steps to the viewpoints. There are two viewpoints and the second one is down at least twice as many steps as the first one. So I elected to stop at the first one, where the view was just fine. The other three went on down to the second viewpoint. While I was waiting for them, lots of Indian tourists were coming by. They started taking pictures of me(?) and then sitting beside me on the bench for a photo, when I indicated it was OK. What a celebrity I became! I had families gathered around and once I started putting my arms around them, they loved it even more. The first group moved off down to the second viewpoint and then got their pictures taken with Don and the others down there.
So I thought I had a reprieve, but a group of teachers and their families were on tour and they started the whole process over again. After I told them I was from Canada, and showed I was willing to ham it up with them, they started singing and clapping. When I asked what the song meant, they said it was a happy song. Here's a little video of it, taken by Maarten. They came back up to the first viewpoint in time to catch some of the action.

On top of the mountain

On top of the mountain


After we rejoined our driver, we drove down the mountain and stopped at places we had passed by in our rush to the top. We visited Echo Point, which is a dirty beach where you pay admission to stand on the shore and shout at the opposite side. Not really worth doing at all, in our opinion, but there were scads of Indian tourists there. We stopped at restaurant for lunch and bought some tea and chocolate at a shop there. We also saw a very graphic sign in the toilet, depicting how to use the toilet correctly and showing a broken toilet and the bloody backside of someone who had broken the toilet! Unbelievable stuff, I know, but true.
The four of us at a tea plantation

The four of us at a tea plantation


We visited the Elephant Walk, where you can pay and get to ride on an elephant. Lena had thought she might like to do this, but when she saw the elephants she said, "How sad they look" and couldn't bear to participate. I agree with her completely. It seems a sad thing for such intelligent animals to walk in circles for our entertainment.
Elephant Walk

Elephant Walk


Other places we have seen this sign showing that there are still free elephants which cross the roads.
Elephant Crossing

Elephant Crossing


This is called a "Honey Tree", the big lumps on it are wild beehives

This is called a "Honey Tree", the big lumps on it are wild beehives


We also visited a Flower Garden, which was like a garden centre or nursery back home. Our guide took us to the market in town so we could visit an ayurvedic pharmacy. I had told Lena and Maarten about my success with my throat cure and they wanted to try some things. While we were there I picked up some oil for arthritis - hope it works as well!
We discovered a new fruit on the way home. A fellow was selling Palmyra nuts, the fruit of a Palmyra tree. He cut them open for you and inside there are three juicy bits of coconut flesh, which I guess turn into the seed if it's allowed to ripen.
Palmyra seller and driver

Palmyra seller and driver


We had bought some beer and got it cooled for supper. We had quite a nice little party at supper, with all three couple there sharing their experiences.

Posted by katdill 01:33 Archived in India Comments (0)

On to Munnar

February 25, 2016

sunny 30 °C
View Sri Lanka, The Maldives and India on katdill's travel map.

We went to the bus station and got on the bus to Munnar. We made sure to go early so we would get a seat. It left at 9:50 and arrived in Munnar around 2:30 with a 1/2 hour break at one stop along the way. What a road! It is paved all the way, but parts of it are so narrow, it is like a single lane road, although it's two lane. We would meet other buses, big trucks, etc. and the drivers would manage to find an angle or slightly wider spot to get past. There were so many hairpin turns, the driver would honk his horn before each one, so anyone coming the opposite way would know and they would beep if they were there. What an early warning system - it worked very well. We made it with no incidents.
Very narrow road

Very narrow road

Amazing gold earrings on the bus

Amazing gold earrings on the bus


We passed many fields of cardamon, as well as tea plantations. The cardamon grows much bigger than we expected, it is 5 to 6 feet high. There is lovely forest up here in the mountains. We climbed quite a bit higher as we traveled, although the place we are staying, The Shade, is apparently at the same altitude as Kumily. But the mountains are all around us. It's cooler here and not as humid as the coast. At night it cools off quite a bit, which is a good thing, as the days can still be just as hot.
Tea plantation

Tea plantation

Temple along the road

Temple along the road


Once we arrived in Munnar, we got a tuk tuk to take us to our accommodation. It is quite a long way out of town, about 15 km, over a rough road that is under construction for part of it. When we arrived and got settled in, our host, Santhosh, took us and the other 4 people staying here on a little tour of his property. He has 2 1/2 acres of pretty steep hillside, which is planted with banana trees, cardamon, elephant foot yam, cacao, nutmeg, pepper, etc. It was quite a treat to see all these up close and find out about how they grow.
Nutmeg tree

Nutmeg tree

Cardamon plant

Cardamon plant


After climbing back up the hill, I was ready for a shower, but Don went off with a French couple for a further walk along the road. There is also a young couple from the Netherlands/Germany, who are in India for a friend's wedding. It sounds like it will be a very exciting event for them. A traditional Hindi wedding - they even have to wear traditional clothing!
At supper, we arranged to go on a tour with a car and driver with them tomorrow. It is more affordable if you can share the price with four people.

Posted by katdill 01:19 Archived in India Comments (0)

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