Manatu

Pig's Ear Park and Other Adventures

Month: January 2010

Backwaters

Forgot to say re ticket clipping, divide by  33 and multiply by 44, that is 33 rupees to the dollar and it happened most of our 44 days away!

To the boat…we left Thekaddy at 8.30 after I had really graciously tossed the extra money at John Cleese look alike. A hard drive up hill and down dale for 4 hours  and we arrived at Alleppy for our boat trip.

The trip down was very attractive, coming down from 1500 metres to sea level and over several passes, lots of tooting and hairraising passing on blind corners, barely raises a squeak from nowadays and i sit right behind the driver! He is tall so pushes his seat back, T pushes the other seat forward and everyone is happy. No, wrong! T was not happy he was an interesting shade of green. Often see cars pulled over and people heaving on the side of these hilly roads. The buses are all liberally splattered along thier sides too.

 Gradually drove out of tea plantations and high mountain valleys to rubber plantations underplanted with pineapples. Towns became more frequent and less charming. Saw a cattle sale, pretty skinny looking things but massive horns. Thay are quite calm about being packed into high trucks with low sides lined with straw! Not sure if it was for them to eat or to stop them being bruised. Best cattle we saw were ones off for the chop, driver said they would be killed and eaten this weekend simply because the weekend is whn most people eat meat, after a trip to the temple on Friday to cleanse themselves from the previous weekends carnivorousness.

Stopped for tea, 60 rupees, driver said Indians would have paid 30 rupees- oh well…

So we finally reach the famous backwaters, and they are attractive. Imagine palm fringed lakes interconnected with canals. People live on the canals and all life revolves around them, washing;themselves, their clothes their cooking utensils- see you cannot use hot water.

There is actually a large expanse of water, hard to see the the perimeter at times it is so large but quite shallow. Fish, mussels and prawns are caught here, some are dived for, some netted and some just die. Think the prawns we  had for dinner had died of old age….

So, the boat, well these boats were originally to to carry freight;rice etc on the backwaters then someone had the bright idea of tarting them up and getting people to stay out overnight on them, became a thriving business with many canal living families owning thier own ‘ricce boat’. They are lined with a mix of palm leaves and bamboo interspersed with plastic which is carefully hidden so as not to spoil the image. We had a bedroom with ensuite- no hot water of course, there was akitchen at the back and a large living area in the front/pointy end. All eating was done here and it was quite a nice place to sit and watch the lake life around you. Two large planters chairs designed for giants were placed at the pointy part with a dining table behind that. I fell of the chair, far too big so spent most of my time at the dining table, T gave up on the giant chairs too…Nice idea just faulty execution.

Crews Englisg was not very good but they quickly learnt when Maam wanted something. Crew of three, driver- at pointy end, sat on a dining chair, cook and a gofer who the driver and cook both shouted at. Food was Ok, typical Indian, three or four curries plus rotis.

We bought the aforementioned prawns at a tourist trap stop for the hordes of rice boats with foreigners aboard!!!

The first lot the fisherman tried to sell us were so old they damn near rotten. T snorted, and we started poking and checking eyes…… The crew were hopeful we would buy heaps so either kick back for them or parawns for them, we bought two! They were the large blue clawd ones so not as mean as it sounds.

We tottered off to bed to the cheery sound of generators from all the other moored rice boats with couples and groups having an ‘authentic’ adventure. Our dinner on the fore deck was also enjoyed to the whir of mozzies and generators.

First soft bed we have had and felt odd after the hard ones of previous nights.

An interesting experience but glad we were not there for a week which was what i had originally intended.

Returned to Fort Cochin where absolutely essential purchases of clunky jewellery were made, amazing what bargaing power you have whn you throw the money down at the end of negotations, well near to the end, and say’ that is all I have, take it or leave it’. They took it and even the driver commented on how happy maam seemed.

A couple of bondas for luch then a dash to the airport, Cochin to bangalore, thenBangalore to KL. Awful flight to KL, Business but the it was a small pointy plane with an aisle down the middle, two abreast. We were really glad to get to Kl and the hotel. Slept away this am and watched movies this pm- Poring with rain in KL!!! So no swimming.

So, India, how do we feel? We have had difficulty coming to terms with the whole experience but I think T hit  when he said ‘it is like the Rohan Mistry book, a fine balance’. The balance being between fabulous and awe inspiring and downright grotty and foul and you never know from minute to minute what it will be.

Glad we came , interesting meeting up with a couple of kiwis at Bangalore airport who had done a nearly identical trip, bit younger than us , they both loved and hated it and I guess that is what India does, causes you to respond.

Funny being back in Asia, the shuffle scuff walk is so ditinctive, Indians walk quite differently. India without the saris would be a dull place and they were an endless source of pleasure. Down south the men wear logyis, and flick them up from floor lenth to just to thier knees with a very quick flick,  I averted my eyes!!!!

Sorry no photos have appeared yet but we have taken hundreds so sometime they will go on plus I will clean up the spelling when I learn to use spell check on this system- well you cannot learn it all at once!!!

Next adventure is Bougainville!

Ticket Clipping

Today we have had our tickets clipped so many times I have lost count. For those who do not know the term it means paying over the odds for an item or a service.

Actually it started yesterday when we arrived at our new home away from home, Thekkady, or to be precise, Periyer Tiger Reserve. I think it is simply a narional park in the guide book but there are over 40 tigers there, more on them later.

Hotel looked like a an army barracks and is inside the park which costs 300 rupees each a day to get in the gate, 2 days at 300 each per day, well you can do the maths.

John Cleese lookalike on the desk showed us a pit in the back of the hotel I snarled and for an additional 2500 rupees we ended up with a room we could sleep in, this was over and above what the agent had already charged us.

Dinner had to be at the hotel as we are locked in the park every night at 6 pm and the gates do not open till 6 am.

Clipped and jailed.

This morning we went on the nature walk of 3 hours  round a small part of the park, 100 rupees each- a bargain, then came 40 rupees for canvas puttees to keep leeches at bay- you needed them as some people ended up with small leeches inside thier shoes. Anyway to get to that stage- of putting on the puttees we had the usual kerfuffle of getting tickets, only 20 people go out at a time, starting at 7 am, then another lot at 10 am and last lot at 3 pm. Well thats what the guide book said but we ended up going adorned in our new very sexy canvas puttees over our socks, inside our sandles and tied over our trousers, mine came over my knees, at 7.30 am. Yes another early start, Terry got his clothes ready the night before.

Walk was actually pretty good, bush was similar to good NZ bush and we saw numerous birds, lovely coloured kingfishers and a DRONGO, yes they do exist, have a lovely split tail. Saw lots of elelphant poo, porcupine poo, and all sorts of other poo, plus we saw a tigers paw print(golly), then we finally saw some bison and some wild boar. But no elephants, yesterday elelphants were sighted.

We returned to the park headquartes on a bamboo raft, there is a hydro lake in the park,and tipped the guide 20 rupees, we thought he was pretty good. Before we left the park we had breakfast, Indian, and a wretched large male monkey swooped down and stole my parathas and baji. It slurped it up off the table!!!! I was provided with more!

We were then told by our guide that we had not tipped enough- another 50 rupees. plus we coughed up for the daily entrance fee of 600 rupees so we could get out of jail and go to a Camp Fire lunch. Yes, I know, the name is enough.

Anyway , we never looked closely at the walls or the fact that the dishes were washed incold water and non bottled water was used in the cooking.Lots of coconut oil was used, and we had really good okra, bean and chicken curries plus bbq’d chicken, well done on a pit over coconut husks. Another 900 rupees , getting the hang of this clipping, just voluntarily handing over money now!

We are now getting the usual pressure from the driver- subtle mind, how little they are paid, how much everything costs, how this, how that, we just smile. We told him this am that there is no tipping in NZ, he looked shocked.

We have only  a 150 k trip to make tomorrow but seeing you only do about 25 k’s an hour on these roads not sure when we will finally make our houseboat, now that should provide some comedy.

We arrive in Cochin again on Friday after another 100 plus k’s on uncertain roads, then it is a hop skip and a jump till we arrive home.

Oh, yes, the better car, it is a renault and is the bosses own! See what you get when you complain, it certainly makes life easier but we do seem to have spent an awful lot of time in it. Just as well I moaned.

I am sure the ticket will be clipped a few more times…..

Munnar

Forgot to say the lightswitches were in a 3 star plus hotel!!!! Think their numbering  for hotels is somewhat different to ours.

Munnar means 3 lakes, we saw a rather manky creek but no lakes in town.

Terry has just read this and swears it is 3 rivers as 3 rivers converge here, would explain the gunge on the banks.

Town of Munnar is the usual wild west Asian style, all low level, tuk tuks everywhere, pot holes, cows and rolla door shopfronts selling everything from nails to icecream. Plus the cleanest email centre we have ever been i, yes the one with the twink keyboard- had to take your shoes off to enter, perhaps it is a temple to IT.

On Sunday when we arrived the town was full of tea planatation workers, thier day off. Place was buzzing, still buzzing the next day but with tuktuks.

We are 1500m up and the temperature is very pleasant. It is very hilly and full of tea planatations, hence the workers who are mainly from Tamil Nadu. The plantations are very attractive, lots of huge rocks down the hillsides with tea planted around them in a beautiful green mosaic. Saw women picking tea, boy they must have good leg muscles as the land thay are working on is twice as steep  as Manatu!

The accommodation is Ok, Whispering Meadows !!!!!, would have been very nice once but seems  here that once  anything  is built no further maintenance is reqired.

Having done an exhaustive(I’ll say- ehausting) study of Indian housekeeping I have reached the following conclusion, mopping the floor with cold water is Ok, changing sheets and sloshing stuff down the loo is OK but wiping walls, using hot water for anything is a nono. Seriously, they never use hotwater- gives you a sore throat. Think they may wash themselves in hot water but not sure as they cough all the time. Dishes are washed in cold water!!!!

We met a nice Indian couple who were visiting the local national park- home to the threatened thar-I’ll say , in NZ we shoot ’em.

Anyway, after a half hour drive out of town, a 10 minute queue, a 20 minute tortuous  busride and a 20 minute walk we reached…….. a sign which said, end of  it! Road went on but we were not allowed to, so we all walked, bussed etc back down again. It was reminiscent of going out in the desert to see sand in Rajastan.

Back to the India couple, they live in Singapore, very suave , been everywhere, just back from a North Island NZ holiday. Here for  a wedding. The wedding season which plagued us in hotels in Rajastan is till on here, but seems quieter somehow. Anyway we were all being rude about the bus and the queueing, and he told this story about Gandhi; Gandhi was travelling by train in 3rd class, and his son was on the same train in 1st class. When asked by reporters why he was in 3rd and his son in 1st, Gandhi replied, ‘well, he has a famous father, mine was a nobody’.

We completed the day with me having an aruveydic massage- think lots of oil… even my hair was oiled- ugh!!! Skin feels Ok but i feel no younger or even reinvigorated as promised!!!

Visited a dam- thrilling- well Ron and Lyn would like it, built by the British.

That is about it, nice staying in a resort up in the trees just a pity the catering was not up to the hotel in Puanui’s standard.

Tomorrow, we are off to Thekaddy, staying in a national park which sounds a bit dodgy, tigers etc but will probably just be the usual monkey or two!

Happy Birthday Ilaria even if it is a day late.

Kerala to Munnar

The keyboard I am working on has no letters left on it – through use of course.  A new set has been painted on in twink but half of them are missing so if my spelling is worse than usual that is why.

We left Chorao quite sadly yesterday morning having had a really nice stay.  Found out the island is five by 8 miles and apparently has about 15000 people on it, the latter surprises me!!!!

Anyway, we left Chorao at 5.45 am on Jan 2nd after one of those sleepless nights caused by worrying about getting up.   Now terry is useless in the morning and I am useless at night, and our day did not end till 10.30 so we both had our chance to behave badly.

Crossed over on the ferry to the mainland, whizzed along in the dark for an hour to the airport at Vasco where, shock, horror, the queue was outide on the road waiting to have their luggage x-rayed.

Much pushing and shoving, some bugger took skin off my ankle with his trolley and I threatened to knock his block off (see, not good in the morning).   We finally tottered through to departure just to repeat it all again, plus body searches at Bangalore.   Women go in a separate queue.

Finally tottered into Cochin at 12.30 pm to be met by a very suave gent.  I hissed that the accommodation and the car better be better than in Rajastan.  We now have a motorised eggcup compared to the thimble we had before.

Our driver, Friver, seems OK as well.   He is not the suave one that met us and whisked us thru the airport.
 
The Hotel? Well, I will post photos sometime of the dirtiest lightswitches I have ever seen and that includes China!  The bed was clean and the shower wet so as long as you never really touched anything it was OK. 

We caught the public ferry over to Fort Cochin which I visited in 1986, sort of the same but lots more rubbish.   Picked up by a tuktuk driver who for 50 rupees took us around all the good bits. How could i resist a driver who said, Wellington, Hamilton, Auckland.   The Hamilton did it!!!!

He was very good and took us into all sorts of dubious places we would never have found like a spice warehouse full of sacks of stuff which then gets sold to the shops! Yummy smells.

Missed the ferry back and had to wait another hour. Driver was quite anxious as we said we would be two hours and stayed away four- ah well…  Then it was off to Kathkali dancing, very traitional, very noisy and very colourful. I’m sure it has its roots in Chinese opera.

Back to the hotel, by which time I was staring to twitch, 8pm and no food.  Went to the hotel restaurant, looked good  but as noted earlier and hours wait and i was very ugly. The food was OK  but they got  a 10 rupee tip and that was only because I never have the right change.

We slept well last night after two ferry trips , two plane flights and 1 tuktuk tour!

Breakfast this morning was a bit of a shambles so we headed off by 9 am and here we are in Munnar which is a tea plantation town in the Western Ghats.

Much cooler, about 24 from 35 and no mosquitos. We got bitten to death at the dancing and we were inside.  The hotel seems clean – we inspect the switches in addition to the bed and shower!!!!

Next report will be on tea plantations and things agricultural.
ps: I was leered here, such a surprise I just stared at the man, that was the end of that.

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