Mountain goats and tea

Trip Start Nov 03, 2009
Trip End Dec 12, 2009

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Where I stayed
Tea Plantation

Flag of India  , Kerala,
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We had breakfast at eight and the fare consisted of corn flakes with hot milk, eggs, pepsi, seven-up, toast, jelly, coffee, and tea.

Our touring began with a visit to the Eravikulam National Park. After paying the entry fee everyone takes a minibus up a narrow one lane mountain road (no shoulder and busses are also coming downhill) to the park entrance. Features of the park are a rare mountain goat (nargili tahr), lemur, elephants and many beautiful birds and wild flowers. When we got off the bus, thankful that we our driver had negotiated the hairpin turns and sheer drops, we saw an asphalt path winding its way up the mountain. Visitors are not allowed to stray from that path. We also immediately saw a tahr placidly munching grass alongside the path. It seems that they have become tame and no longer fear man. As we walked the path up to its end (about 30 minutes) we saw lots of birds, beautiful wild flowers, and more tahr. But no other  animals. We did, however, encounter many young Keralans and they were quite friendly and eager to practice a little English. As we left the park we sampled some local delights: "Home-Made Chocolate" aka fudge, roasted corn with marsala spices and spiced roasted cashews. While the corn could have been sweeter, the fudge and cashews were very good.

From the park we drove to a tea factory where we saw how tea was made. The assembly line for drying the leaves and converting to the different grades and types of tea (white, green and black) is rather interesting. Unfortunately pictures were not permitted. Then lunch at a hotel restaurant where I had what was a truly tasty and hot dish of Chicken Chettinad, a typical south Indian dish. Dessert was fried apples with vanilla ice cream. All very good.

Next our driver suggested we visit the dam that has created the large lake in the area and then do some speed boating on the lake. We were a little leery about the speed boating but decided to accept his suggestions and we were all glad we did. As we walked across the dam we saw the lake on our left and the narrow valley on our right with the dam spillway providing water for the valley's river. And 15 minutes of speed boating for $6 is pretty good. The area around the lake is spectacular and mostly undeveloped, in those parts we could have been anywhere in the world (with mountains, lake, deep forests and the occasional tea plantation).

Then back to town for spice shopping in a small shop jammed with locals. Bought vanilla, lots of assorted Indian spices, and a fruit cake to give to some unsuspecting soul back home for Christmas. I also visited a local state wine store and bought a bottle of Maharashtra wine for about $13; a 2008 cabernet-shiraz blend. Not quite as good as Two Buck Chuck but drinkable.

For dinner at our plantation house, the staff served broiled fish with and without chili spice, mutton, dahl, rice and rice pudding for dessert. The fish was overcooked but the mutton and vegetarian dishes were ok as was the dessert. But we were so full from our lunch that we left 95% of the food untouched. Hopefully the staff will eat it.
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