Back to the Beginning: Fort Cochin

Once again all packed up and ready to leave, this time it’s goodbye to Green Spaces and Munnar.  We are sad to leave as this is a truly beautiful place.  Mr L, with the help of Green Spaces, finally managed to get us a telephone reservation on the Kyros Connects coach that would bring us back to Fort Cochin.  All previous efforts at trying to book online had failed miserably.

 

We had time this morning for a quick 2 mile stroll up and down a few hills to take a final look at the beautiful scenery and the cardamom plantations and spot poinsettia plants growing in a garden.

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This poinsettias looks as sad as the remnants of the Christmas one at home!

We got back to Green Spaces just as the rain started.  Thunder, lightening and heavy rain which fortunately stopped before we had to leave.  The tuk-tuk booked for 14.00 arrived promptly and delivered us to a random car park just outside Munnar town centre.  Our tuk-tuk driver checked at the entrance kiosk and assured us that this was where we needed to be. He left, the thunderstorm recommenced, and Mr L, me and our luggage sheltered as best we could under an awning and kept fairly dry.  The Kyros Connects coach duly arrived and it was soon time to board.  Unfortunately the coach parked at the opposite end of the car park.  I made a dash for it and got absolutely drenched, Mr L was more patient and waited until the storm had eased a bit before making his dash.  Wise move as he was considerably less wet than me!

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Kyros Connects provided an excellent service in a comfortable air-conditioned coach with a very good driver.  Sadly the bad weather continued for the whole 2 hours it took to get out of the mountains so we really didn’t see much of the view. Once we got to the towns and more built up areas the traffic was steady and slow at times.  We finally got to Fort Cochin at 19.30 where we were dropped on the edge of town……a bit random…..but the coach driver hailed us a tuk-tuk and we were soon at our accommodation for the next 2 nights – Raintree Lodge.  Mr L and I were very impressed with Kyros Connects which provides a link between Munnar and Cochin (132km) for 350IR (£4.32) per person.  It is a new privately managed coach service that only started in January 2017, but which appears to have not quite sorted recognisable pick up and drop off places as it clearly does not have access to the government subsidised public bus and coach service depots.

We have checked in to Raintree Lodge, our room is spacious with a nice looking bathroom and hot water – yay!! Dinner was a short walk away at our favourite Sutra before heading back to bed with the alarm set for 7.30 tomorrow morning for a full final day of holiday.

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We are now back to the warmer climes of the earlier part of the holiday with evening temperatures of 25c.  We don’t feel cold here!

 

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Munnar and the Tea Museum

We woke to a perfect blue sky with the sun shining on the cardamom plantation outside our bedroom window. Great we thought, we will have a clear view of the hills from the viewpoint this morning.  We had breakfast promptly at 8.30am and headed up to the viewpoint to find that the clouds had already descended and obscured the view by 9.15am.  Its was an improvement on yesterday with the hint of a view.  Nevertheless very disappointing.

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We arranged for a tuk-tuk to pick us up at 10am and take us into Munnar, a 30 minute ride down through the mountains. Munnar is typical Indian town, noisy, full of scooters, jeeps and tuk-tuks and people.

We wandered around the town, into the vegetable market and then tried to find information on the buses for Thursday to get us back to Fort Cochin.  The bus is a much cheaper option than getting a taxi so we have decided to opt for that for this journey.  However, it seems to difficult to find out the necessary information…..

We had a brief lunch stop and then took a tuk-tuk up to the Tea Museum, just 2km outside of Munnar. Our entrance fee was 125IR (£1.53) each. The museum told the story of the development of the tea plantations in this part of India.  Tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis, an evergreen bush which grows at altitudes of 3,000-7,000ft on slopes at 30-45 degrees. In the beginning, in the 19th century, forested areas had to be cleared in order to plant the plantations but apparently nothing else can grow on the high altitude slopes favoured by tea so tea does not reduce other opportunities for commercial crops. The evergreen tea plantations are impressive to look at and certainly provide a constant green covering to all the hills as far as the eye can see.

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Mr L and I now know the difference between black tea, green tea and white tea. We saw tea from its initial delivery as green leaves being processed into tea leaves and tea dust.  The factory machinery looked as ancient as the museum building!

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At the end of the tour there was a shop where it was possible to buy tea but everything was behind a counter so impossible to look at with no information and no prices on display.  It was a shame as there is huge potential to maximise profits from the shop if only it was organised better. Information books on tea production, the history of the plantations etc would also be good to see but there was nothing available at all.  It was very similar to the spice plantation in Thekkady which also had no information to give out or available to purchase.  So many missed opportunities.

We walked back into town, downhill all the way, and went into one of the many spice and tea shops in Munnar and bought some local tea from there. You could see what you were buying and it was a fraction of the cost the museum shop was charging.

As usual dark clouds rolled in early afternoon and rain looked imminent but it never arrived whilst we were out.  My donated rain mac was not required today! We did have a small amount of rain after we got back to Green Spaces late afternoon but that didn’t affect us as we are very sheltered on our outside area, and nothing like the rain downpours of the past few days. We must be getting used to the lower temperatures, 21-22c, as neither I or Mr L felt quite so cold this evening.

Green Spaces, Munnar

Green Spaces is an eco-friendly homestay high in the hills of the Western Ghats mountain range. We are based at 5,000ft, approximately 1 mile, above sea level.  All roads either go up or go down, nothing is flat.  Everywhere is green, we have views of cardamom plantations from our bedroom window together with lots of tall trees and huge bamboo plants.  We are in the heart of the tea plantation area of Kerala and it is truly beautiful.

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Breakfast is served in the communal outside area downstairs and good to have the option of a normal breakfast of fresh fruit, toast and coffee once again. Mr L and I went for a walk this morning to explore our immediate area.  There is a view point within walking distance but we had a limited view due to the very low cloud cover.

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We then walked up to the Pallivasal Tea Estate, a huge plantation with views of tea bushes as far as you can see.  The female workers could be seen cutting the tea bushes and collecting the leaves in the big sacks which were then carried and placed near the main sign.  You need to be on a guided trek or tour to be able to go into the estate.  We aim to do the trek on Wednesday morning.

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We got back to Green Spaces late morning and the weather gradually deteriorated and we have had heavy rain and thunder and lightening since early afternoon.  Due to the strike we have had limited options today.  It appears that some taxis and tuk-tuks are working but all the shops in Munnar were closed so there was no point going into town. Neither was there any point going on a further afield sight-seeing trip as the weather would obscure any potential view.  So, we have had a lazy afternoon reading and googling various facts about tea, Munnar, Ayurveda etc.

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Mr L has been researching the Ayurvedic properties of some of the herbs and spices grown in Kerala.  Apparently on his return he will be partaking in a daily diet of 2 teaspoons of turmeric in a glass of warm milk (possibly coconut milk), some holy basil, and a bit of guava……all of which will cure all, prevent all illnesses and achieve the holy grail of perfect health!

We met and chatted at length with our neighbour this evening, a young woman from South Korea who is here in Kerala on holiday but has been living and working as a researcher in Delhi for the past 3 years.  She very kindly donated me her plastic mac which she has never used and she departs for Fort Cochin in the morning and won’t need it there.  Really useful as I think I will be needing it over the next couple of days as the weather forecast is not brilliant and I didn’t actually bring a rain coat with me as didn’t expect rain in India at this time of year.  It’s also ‘only’ 21c and we feel cold so have been wearing our fleeces and I have borrowed a pair of Mr L’s socks to keep my feet warm!