Sunday, 13 May 2012

Madurai, Kodaicannal and Ooty


Met an Austrian guy on the bus station to Madurai. I took a motion sickness pill, and was sleepy all the way while listening yet again to Jeff's oxygen theory and trading strategies.
At the hotel, we booked 2 rooms. Jeff's social awkwardness reappeared when he wanted a room for himself, and I ended up sharing a room (i.e. a bed) with someone who I just met 4 hours ago!
Madurai is very hot, and already a few times I feel like I'm getting a heat attack. It's a term I made up, but I guess people who feel claustrophobic would experience something like that. I just feel that I don't have enough air and water, and I'm going to collapse. It gets worse at nights when the electricity goes off and the fan stops working. Usually I wake up right away in a sometimes small dark room (haha ... the electricity went off now ... it must have read my blog :) ) shining my phone at the fan hoping it would start spinning again. We usually close the windows so that the mosquitoes won't fly in. It's pitch black dark and it's very VERY hot!! I feel like I'm going to die!!
In the evening we went to a very nice roof top restaurant with a city view and a breeze. The service was excellent. You would call them, or tell them to bring something, and would come running (literary!)
In the morning Jeff didn't go to the temple ... don't know, maybe because of me.
It was 1 of the 5 recommended temples in Lonely Planet. My theory is still correct. You've seen one, you've seen them all! And besides, it was way too colorful for me, like in a Disney land. There was an elephant blessing people for money. They would put the money in his trunk, and he would put the trunk on the head and on the offering plate, and give the money to his keeper. Poor elephant! He should be in the jungle, not chained to the temple "blessing" people.
The locals wanted us to take pictures of them on OUR camera! Weird ...
Some store was "nice" enough for us to keep our shoes in. Of course when we came back, they tried every selling technique on us. The shop was of course very nice, and most of nice shops would ship your purchases ... but I can't afford it on my backpacking budget and I told him that I don't have a home to put it in. Right away he stopped with his sales pitch and sympathized with me. Oh yes madam, you have to have a home first. I felt good coming out of the shop alive :) A few moments later, I didn't feel so good anymore ... I don't have a home :(
One woman on the street was following us asking for money and food for her baby. No, no, no, no! We stopped to have juice, just as we started walking, there she is again. No, no, no, no! Don't have babies if you can't afford them! Easier said than done in here as I'm sure most of them just get raped. Go away I yelled! She went away! It seems like "Go away" is my favorite phrase now. If people disagree with you in here, they would never talk to you and say why or why not, right away they start yelling at you. I think if you just reason with them, or tell them no, it's not good enough, as in, it's not something that they're used to, and they don't take you seriously. To take you seriously, you either have to yell at them or slap them, something that I'm not really good at doing.
Jeff wanted to go East and I wanted to go North. I love travelling with him, and I tried to persuade him to go north for a bit with me, and then East. He said no, and that it was fun travelling with me anyway. What does it mean "anyway"?
I asked a bunch of people what time do the buses go to Kodaicannal, and got a bunch of different responses. Well, I thought, if I get different responses, then my chances are pretty good. Besides, if there is no direct bus, there are always hops that you can do. It might take a bit longer, but at least you're not tied to a schedule of a direct bus, but might leave only once or twice a day. At the bus station locals usually help around by asking you where you're going if they see that you look confused, and directing you to the right bus. I don't usually look confused, but it might take me a few seconds to find some information desk, a worker or a normal looking local to ask for info. One guy asked me, pointed me to the bus that was 30 meters away, I said thanks, then he lead me to the bus, said that I can take my luggage with me ... nooooo ... I didn't know that! took me to some seat, put his hand out, and asked for 10 rps. No, I said, go away!
On the bus to Kodaicannal met a modern Indian guy who doesn't want to get married :) He said that life should be lived to the fullest, and everybody is an individual as opposed to a couple. That was very nice to hear for a change. He's 24, and he also wants to study Phd. He has a 2 year degree, and Phd only takes 1 year! WTH? Either they're too easy in there, or way too hard in Canada! He's 24 and already he's a manger in a bank.
Kodaicannal is a hill station, and thus is a very popular destination for locals. I arrived on Friday, on a hill station, and a holiday weekend! Very lucky for me, as most of the hotels were booked, and the ones that weren't were super expensive :( I ended up paying $28 for a room that doesn't even have a shower head! :( I asked the driver about hostels, but 2 were full, and in the other one there were 95% men. He said that I'm like a sister to him, and he wouldn't let me stay there :)) How cute :)
I like Kodaicannal. There isn't much hassle or cheating, everybody is friendly and there are a bunch of homemade chocolate stores! ... although not very good ones :) and everything is natural and organic. It has "No plastic bags" policy, and everything is served in bags made out of newspapers. There is an international school in there, and it's nice to finally hear people speaking good English, dressing up in jeans and have a hair style trying to look cool :)
In the evening, in this overpriced hotel, the electricity was off most of the time, but it doesn't surprise or irritate me anymore, I just calmly find a torch in my bag and light that up. In South America I used a torch to hike in the dark, in here, I use it in rooms when there is a power cut. Then I couldn't fall asleep because the mouse tried to eat my bananas. I put them higher on the shelf, but he even reached there. It was a war between the mouse and me. I finally got up and put them in the closet, and shone a torch to see the mouse climb up my suitcase onto the shelves and trying to open the doors of the closet :) He finally realized that no bananas today for him. But he took his revenge when the bed shook whenever he run beneath it. At 6:30am wake up call, and not a knock on the door, but a long and loud bbbzzzzzzzzzzzzzz sound. I yelled for them to leave me alone, that I'm sleeping, but they buzzed 2 more times. Why why why??? I asked when I checked out why were they buzzing and not letting me sleep. He said that my friends came to pick me up! What friends?? Didn't he see yesterday that I came with a taxi, and the taxi driver helped me negotiate a cheaper room price??!! And made sure that I'm ok and comfortable before leaving?? It's not the first time it's happening in hotels when they wake you up because they think that you're someone else. How hard is it to keep track of your guests??
In the morning I checked into the hostel which must be the best hostel ever! The rate was $7/night, which is expensive for the hostel, but not expensive for in season + holiday weekend rate. I gave him $20 for a deposit because I didn't have any change. It also had the best location of all the locations on the hill. Tucked away on a small alley, away from the street honking, and built right on the edge on a cliff, offering a vast vista of the view below.
I went for what I thought would be a relaxing 6 km walk. No, it wasn't relaxing at all. First of all I started noticing that outside the men to women ratio is about 99 to 1. Second of all, due to it being a holiday weekend, all the locals passed in their cars with their heads out of the window beeping, screaming, laughing, shouting inappropriate comments ... grrr !!! When I was younger I wanted to be famous, now I thank god I'm not, and if you want to feel like one, you should definitely do a short crash test in India to see if you'll like it! On the way I stopped at a green valley, which should be renamed as a white valley since I could see past my nose. I bought a boiled corn, and finished about a third before a big alpha male monkey was coming at me, I tried to move away, but it started to growl :(( I gave up the corn :( People around were funny when the monkeys came, they just screamed like they're on fire, threw everything they had in their arms high in the air and bumped into everything on the way while running away :)
When I reached the pillar rocks I was disappointed. There are too many shops, too many people/buses/cars, and still white. The clouds separated a little bit, but it still wasn't an impressive sight. People were standing next to me to take pictures, I tried telling them that it's not nice to do it behind my back, there were 100s of cameras in my face.
I didn't want to walk all the way back. I asked if there are buses, but it wasn't possible. Last bus already left. What about this one, I pointed to the bus. Not possible, this is a tourist bus. But I'm a tourist! I went to the driver and asked him if I could join for the ride back to town. Of course it's possible! Everything is if you just try. While waiting for it, I bought eucalyptus oil. The whole area is overgrown with eucalyptus tree. It's good for coughs and cold. Best way is to put a few drops in the boiling water and to inhale the steam. I smelled it, and it smells just like halls. Except what I bought is 100% pure ($2) :) On the bus, everybody was smiling at me, pointing and laughing, offering me their seat, food, making sure I was comfortable, and of course taking pictures, but here I just sat and smiled at the camera ... what else could I do??
Then I went to botanical garden which was way overcrowded. People were taking so many pictures of the flowers, and it wasn't even pretty. I guess it's pretty in India, because there are no gardens, and there are no flowers growing around. Everywhere there are signs "Do not pick the flowers". I think there are more signs than flowers themselves. Look, a lonely rose - wow, a lily wooooow!
I took a bicycle to ride around the lake. I can prove that whoever invented math is wrong! 20/2 = 20!! I only took it for half an hour, gave him 10, and he said it's 20 minimum. Why can't they ever say the rules beforehand?? In Munnar I bought a coconut. It was 20, but he gave me a big one, and after I finished it, he said it's 30 because it's big. Well, I didn't ask for big! If he would've told me that it's 30, I wouldn't have gotten it! Anyway, I took the bicycle for another round to prove that math IS correct! ... and because I had nothing better to do anyways :))
On the street a father (I guess), put something in a bag, and gave it to his 1.5 year old child to deliver it somewhere. So this child was barely walking, going from side to side, tripping and falling on a small sidewalk surrounded by 100s of people, cars, bicycles, dogs and cows.
In a hostel, the group on Indian tourists still didn't move away, and I chatted with them for 10 minutes. They bombarded me with questions, mostly about Canada and about our lifestyle, and before they went I was invited to stay at their house for as long as I'd liked. It's so nice. Women in India are very hospitable ... well, men sometimes too, but usually when they're already married. They were shocked that I'm travelling by myself and said that they would never get out of their house on their own. They've only been to Delhi, and here, and even here (a small town), they're scared because they don't know anybody, where to do, or what to do. I told them to read info online, ask taxi drivers for directions, go to a tourist information center, or just wonder around and see what interesting you could stumble upon. Naaaahhh ... too scary for them :)
I was a bit hungry, but not really in the mood for food yet. I ordered something strange looking on the street. Pretty much it's a "dish" made out of a bunch of stuff. Cornflakes, spicy thingis, more spicy thingies, peas, tomatoes, onions, beetroot, coriander, steamed peanuts, green mango, zucchini, all mixed together with squeezed lemon and any spices that you want. It was soooo good ! When you try a lot of unknown things and they're mostly very good, you realize that a world is not such a scary place!
In the evening I watched a movie "man on the wire". It's a documentary about a guy who put a wire between the twin towers of New York and walked it back and forth. But it's not about walking it, it's about all the years of preparation and planning and practicing, and about being determined and reaching your dreams. He's very good at walking the wire. He can walk it when his friends are shaking it, with his eyes closed, backwards, juggling, and while I watched it, I missed being really really good at something. I used to be very good in circus, in karate, dancing, in school, biology, math, physics, but now I'm not sure what I'm really good at ... maybe it's travelling?? I can with relative ease plan a route that will be logical, find a place, negotiate more or less a fair price, get info quickly, find my way around, find the right buses/trains, alter my decision on the spot if the situation is not correct, make friends ... I don't know ... does that count?
At night it was freezing. In Madurai I was wishing to sleep in a bath full of ice, here I wished for another blanket! Even though it was cold, I had to continue with my reiki practice, and got my hands out of the sleeping bag and 4 blankets which I had on top of me. I'm really happy that I made myself do it, because at cold I could've actually felt the heat generated by my hands. The air was cold, I was freezing, but my hands were boiling hot! I had great concentration on that day, and decided to try and do remote reiki (level 2), on someone in Toronto who's neck hurts. A few days later I asked him ... "Did your neck started to feel better a few days ago?" - "It's funny that you ask" !!! Hmmmm ... coincidence or something freaky?!?!? I have to tell you, that I really have no idea what I'm doing!
In the morning the air cleared, and the view from the front lawn was just unbelievable! It was crystal clear, and Kodaicannal was above clouds! There are tours and trips to climb steep mountains for days on end to see something like that, and here it was free, and I just had to get out of my room! I went to book an overnight bus, but it was full. I already stayed 3 days too long in here, there isn't much to do, but with a view like that, and international crowd, I didn't mind at all. I booked the bus for the next day, and a tour of the surrounding area for the morning/afternood, just so I'll have something to do. I randomly walked around the town. I was looking at buildings, scenery, cars, restaurants, but every time I looked up, 90% of the people around me would be looking at me. I got in terms with it. I thought about it, and if suddenly in the middle of downtown Toronto there would be a native Indian with a loin cloth, bow and arrows with a human scull as a necklace, he would get quite a few stares too!
What I love about some places is that in the middle of all the garbage, cows, broken buildings/roads, so much honking that you wish you were deaf, there would be oasis right in the middle of it all in the form of dominos pizza or a coffee chain "coffee day". Whenever I miss something western, want the best coffee ever or want to escape the hassle or the terrible heat, I would go there. These places are so clean it's unbelievable, they have ACs stacked one next to another, colorful clean menu, and staff that speaks good English and wears clean uniforms. As you've noticed "clean" means a lot in here, as in most places when you touch something you immediately want to take a shower. These places would also play western popular music, and sometimes I would sit there for hours remembering that once upon a time there was good music playing on radio :)
People are very nice in this town. The guy at coffee day went patiently with me through the entire menu explaining what each item is made out of. Why can't they put the ingredients on the menu, I have no idea ... I just have to choose if I like "Ice Eskimo" or "Tropical island" based on how it sounds. At the hostel the owner was explaining me all the directions and all the things to see around, and in the bus agency, the guy tried to come up with all sorts of ways to get me to my next destination when the bus was full ... when I couldn't book it, they offered me chai and suggested I would take a sightseeing bus the next day so I won't be bored. India is always an extreme between clean and dirty, rich and poor, sweet and spicy, bustards and people who would go out of their way to help you ... Whenever I am so furious about something, the next minute, I would be surprised by random act of kindness from complete strangers.
I didn't want to see anything else in town this day, since the view was clear, and I figured that nothing would be better than just sitting on the front lawn on the hostel and looking around. I took a book, but couldn't read much, I couldn't take my eyes of the scenery below. It was so beautiful that I almost started to cry.
It's funny how language/rituals/phrases differ from region to region. In here they use "only" incorrectly, and everybody's talking like this: "The bus will wait 2 minutes walk only", "We'll return to town at 3:30 only", "leave your shoes here only" ...
In the hostel I paid for 1 night, he said $4 (strange, he told me $7 at first), then when I couldn't get the bus out and stayed for another night, I give him $4, he says it's $6. Why $6 I ask, yesterday was $4. "Oh, it's because you gave me $20, and I didn't have any change, so I took only $4" ... I give him $6 without arguing. I already understood that the only thing that makes sense in India is that nothing makes sense at all.
On the bus to Ooty (another hill station), I actually was asleep most of the time. Covering myself with sweater and sleeping bag on the top, then waking up and taking everything off when we reached the bottom and wearing everything back again when it was reaching the top. Again Ooty was overpriced. I started feeling bad a bit nauseous and dizzy. The asymmetrical bed design and crooked TV didn't help my dizziness at all. I slept till 1pm, didn't get out of bed till 5, walked around for 2 hours and went back to bed. I didn't eat anything that day, and wasn't hungry at all. I didn't feel like doing anything in the city and got the bus out the next morning.
I waited for my bus to Wayanad which was supposed to be one the most beautiful places in Kerela. Usually at the bus station, the buses stand for some time, and you can easily find it, get a seat, go to washroom, buy some snacks for the ride it's a very peaceful procedure. Well not on this bus. I guess maybe because there are only 2 buses that go there a day, once it started to get into the station, a mob on locals were running with it, holding onto the doors, or trying to climb it on the move. People were shoving themselves in, while not allowing anybody to get out. I was looking at this chaos, and at my suitcase, and figured no way I could board this bus safely without being stomped to death. I waited until everybody got in, and there were no free seats left. I really didn't feel like standing for 4 hours and decided to skip Wayanad and go to my next destination Madurai .... oooops Mysore ... fwweeeef that was a close one!!

pix are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/MaduraiKodaicannal

Monday, 7 May 2012

Periyar and Munnar

Jeff and I went to Periyar national park. I warned Jeff that we shouldn't have breakfast because we're going on the bus, and he thanked me later. The problem with buses is that there is no washroom, and you have no idea if you'll have any reaction to food, so every time I go on buses I'm both hungry and dehydrated. I took a motion sickness pill just in time, because our driver was crazy driving to the top of the mountain, with his hand constantly on the horn, practically driving on the other side of the road. We were flying left and right, and at some point we were airborne. In Toronto I had calluses from rock-climbing, here I have them from trying to hang on in the buses!
Periyar is a very nice town, green, full of guest houses, we left our bags in one of them, and were searching for something that we both would like. It's cool because we have the same budget and same taste, same mindset, so finding/doing something that we both like is never a problem. We're also both very good negotiators, and bringing a price down from 1000 to 700 was a piece of cake, especially when we back each other up :) Our budget is about $8/day for a hotel, and we decided instead of splitting $8 (so we each pay $4), we would get a super room for $16. And super room we got! Huge, sparkling clean room with a sofa, table and a very nice balcony overlooking a sanctuary, I couldn't get enough of the view. We were hanging from the cocoon chairs and chatting until it got so dark, that we couldn't see anything at all.
I was craving honey/lemon/ginger tea (I started loving it while I was sick in Varkala), and we went for a walk. It being a good Friday didn't help at all. All the restaurants were closed, and we pretty much did huge, pointless circle around town. Finally one restaurant was open, but their honey/lemon/ginger tea resembled a warm water with a drop of lemon flavour :( When we paid we said that the tea didn't have any honey or lemon or ginger in it, and received 50% discount :)
The room had 1 king bed (awkward when you travel with a male FRIEND), but anyway, we went to sleep under the blanket!! Since I did a reiki course, one of the things to do is to practice reiki for 3 weeks for minimum 15 minutes each day. I started doing it on myself. While being in the middle of it, Jeff jumps up. "Hey Yana, are you doing reiki on yourself??" - Yes, I am! He said that he could feel energy flowing in his body, and in the same spots where I was doing it on myself! SUPER COOL! Now, if you think that I believe in reiki ... no I don't. I am very skeptical! Some people say that it only works because you believe in it, but it works on me (and Jeff), and neither of us believes in it!! What's weird though is that when I was little (9-10 years old), and my grandma had headaches, I would hover my hand over her forehead and soon her headache would be gone. It worked every time, and also I would gather the energy around her head in a ball, and throw it out! Nobody told me to do it, nobody taught me that, I had no idea where it came from. But now 20 years later I'm learning the exact form of art that I somehow instinctively already knew!
We slept for 12 hours and for the first time in a long time woke up without all the bed being wet from our own sweat.
We took a tuk-tuk for a few hours to tour around. Went to a tea plantation, where nobody was working :( They come back to the same spot only once in every 15 days, that's when the leaves had a chance to grow back again. We were told that 1 woman collects around 100 kgs of tea leaves every day. We drove to a tea factory which was closed :( I was upset. We asked the driver if it would be open due to the Easter weekend, and he assured us that it was, and it's the only working factory in the whole area which allows tourists inside. But we had other things to see, and didn't want that to ruin our mood. We went to a spice plantation, and then spontaneously decided to ride an elephant. I love elephants! And riding one was a blast. It's so comfortable, I think the most comfortable animal for transportation. It moves very slowly and elegantly. I always tried to pet it somehow, and to touch his head, back, ears, trunk, lie on its head so that I could see down his trunk :)) It was sooo much fun! We both enjoyed it way too much. But too bad that I forgot my camera and Jeff's didn't take very good pictures. I tried to take pictures standing next to it, but I was pretty scared, because it just can wrap you around with his trunk and throw you away. The guide was constantly monitoring and ordering it to keep his trunk down while I was posing next to it :) What a beautiful animal !! By far my favourite :))
In the evening ate at a very beautiful restaurant called coconut garden. It only had 5 tables in total spread out in the huge garden. The menu was amazing with amazing pictures, and almost all the menu items had chocolate added to them somehow. Like mutton in chocolate/coconut/ginger sauce !!! But the food wasn't good at all :( And it was overpriced, and even though I had mosquito coils all around me, I must have killed at least 20 mosquitoes during our meal.
In the morning, woke up at 6 to go for a hike in the park. I think the most interesting thing we've seen outside the park, and these were monkeys with a bunch of baby monkeys who looked like they were just born. Some of them were still wet, and they looked awkward and wrinkly just as new born babies do :) Inside we got a drunk guide, and pretty much saw butterflies, green spiders, 3 deer from far far a way ... a cow ... uuummm :) and we heard a growl! I hoped it was a tiger, but the guide said it was a bison. Didn't sound like a bison to me! I will think it was a tiger :)
We feel asleep for 3 hour nap. I don't know what's going on, we just sleep and sleep and never get enough. Jeff said thank god that I'm there, otherwise he'd think that he was sick or something.
In the afternoon went to a boat ride in a manmade lake. We had a big boat, and they put life jackets on us, and didn't allow to stand up (we were on the 3rd isle from the edge). These Indians, they always make up rules as they go. ALWAYS! They don't make sense at all. I always make up my rules, and say no! In Varkala while I was sitting on the sand, feeling the waves at my feet, the lifeguards told me to move away because their shift is over!! I asked them if they think I'm gonna drown in 2 cm of water!?! I always challenge them, and ask "Why not?" ... they usually don't have an answer, or they say "ok, ok" ... it's not like I asked for their permission!
I didn't like the life jackets, felt chocked by it, and still managed to stand up :) It was very relaxing and green but misty, we saw a herd of bisons, but that's about it. I don't think Periyar should be recommended by lonely planet at all. Could be that the author saw 20 wild elephants and got super excited by it, but otherwise, I don't see a reason at all.
In the morning we got a bus to Munnar. Such a beautiful bus ride. We got an excellent driver as well, who was driving slowly and carefully, only beeping on necessary corners. The scenery was astounding, huge valleys dropping at least a km down right at the wheels of the bus. Me and Jeff were screaming when the bus was coming to a blind corner with a space for pretty much 1 car. When we were approaching, it started to rain heavily. We were told that yesterday was the first rain. Mansoon is coming!! We got an annoying rickshaw driver who did everything to get us into his rickshaw for a very cheap ride to the hotel. I was wondering why ... I got it, he tried to sell us rickshaw day tours which are so popular in Munnar. He tried to push us to pick a time for next day, but all we could think about was sleeping in. Besides, I wouldn't go for him anyway, I don't like pushy people. Again, I got the benefit of travelling in a couple, we got a huge top floor room, with only 1 room on the whole floor, with a view on the nearby tea hill.
Munnar is stunning! I feel so peaceful in it. In the morning we took a tuk-tuk tour to the surrounding country side. Pretty much everybody in Munnar works in the tea plantations. Kumar, the driver, told us about this place. It has 36 villages, 36 hospitals/schools, 36 temples I ask? No, we have much more temples than that :) Lots of social activities. Before the land belonged to the British, but now local TATA company bought it, and it's in partnership with the workers. 2/3rds of the area though could be planted with tea bushes is not touched and protected in its natural form. Tata gives workers free houses, electricity, water, schools, hospitals. If a couple is married, they're given a piece of land for a garden. It's all natural, there are no chemicals, no pollution, all area is organic. I fell in love with Munnar and Tata right away! Munnar is not for sale Kumar told us. Foreigners want to buy land, but only allowed to within a certain distance from Munnar. The workers work normal days from 8 - 5 with a bunch of breaks, and have to collect minimum 25 kgs of tea/day. Most collect much much more than that, and are getting paid accordingly. There are yearly bonuses as well. Kumar said that average salary is 175 rps/day. Which is a lot! Considering that everything is for free!
I'm in such a better mood in here, and I feel hypnotized. Everywhere there are signs "Munnar, as close to heaven as it gets", and I certainly feel like I'm in one. I guess because people have such a good lifestyle in here that everybody is super friendly, telling us hello when they pass on the bikes. Even the expression on their faces is relaxed, peaceful and kind. Went to a tea factory museum. They showed us the super simple process of making tea. The tea leaves are put on the conveyer belt, then it goes through 3 cutting machines that cuts the leaves into almost a powder form. The mushy stuff goes into fermentation for an hour, then it's dried. Then the conveyer belt jumps and there is static electricity which separates fiber from the rest. And that's it. It's sorted through different filters ... Taaaa-daaa !!! The end!
When we got back to the hotel, the owner said that our room door was open, but he saw that we're not inside and closed it. My heart sank, I imagined all of my electronics being stolen :( But we got into the room, and my laptop was still happily charging :)
In the evening did reiki on Jeff. When I got to his head, I felt like I was moving from side to side, like he was shaking his head back and forth, I kept concentrating because I've never felt that before. When it was over, I asked him how it was, and he said when I did his head, he had shivers going through all his body ... coooooool :))
Slept for 12 hours again! We're just constantly tired! We asked the owner how to get to a waterfall, but got an answer that it's too far away, and the tuk-tuk would be a fortune! It's not far way at all, I think we paid 80 to get there. Never trust/ask anybody who's selling hiking tours how it's possible to do it on our own.
Of course we weren't allowed to walk in that area, but we got there, looked at the sign "Private road, no entry" and decided that that's the road we should walk on ... I mean, it only makes sense :) The walk was in the middle of a tea plantation, it was a beautiful clear day, accompanied by beautiful surroundings, tea plantations, valleys and mountains. We talked to the locals, they all smiled at us. At first we tried to hide behind the trees when we saw some people, but I can't enjoy like that, we'll just be polite and they'll let us through. Once we didn't know which way to go, asked somebody on the bike, he was smiling and laughing, telling us that we can't be here, it's a restricted area, but then just as friendly was telling us the road we should take. The road out of the plantation was going through a waterfall, and then a hill. It was so hot, and it looked steep! What do you do if you're not me. You start walking up! What do you do if you're me. You start asking everybody around how to get to the top, and apparently there are jeeps that go there. Just as we walked out, a jeep was coming. It was so comfy, not like a tuk-tuk where you can feel every rock, this one actually has suspension! Midway we drove across a couple who sat at a cafe with us, and who decided to walk up (somebody who's not like me :) ), we also stayed at the same hotel strip, and the jeep dropped them off a minute walk from the road, I felt like walking nowhere, and asked them to drop us off right at the road. This is India, the bus, or anything that moves, will drop you off exactly as the spot where you would feel like walking from.
In the hotel we didn't have a shower head, the water was just coming out of the tap that was mounted half a meter from the floor, and I didn't learn to take bucket showers yet. I was looking and looking at this tap, and rinsing myself while sitting on the floor is ok, but what about my hair? I decided to lie on the floor and stick my head under the tap. It worked! :))
In the evening we went to a traditional Indian martial arts performance - Kerali. On the way there, got hassled again to take a tuk-tuk tour for the next day, we didn't need that, so we got offered marijuana instead ... we didn't need it either :) It was getting dark, and the mountains around turned into different shades of blue. I kept telling the driver to stop so I could take more and more pictures :) Of course we were told that there are no buses going to that place, but the whole way we were driving behind the bus :) Never trust/ask anybody who's driving a tuk-tuk if it's possible to get there on the bus!
The performance was unbelievable. It was a staged fight, but it was so real, with full power, using a bunch of different weapons, swords, daggers, shields, 3 on 1, a guy with 2 knives fighting against a guy with a piece of cloth as a defense. They were jumping and hitting the shields, sparks were flying everywhere, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole show. It was unbelievable! They all come out with scratches and cuts at the end of every evening. We had a chance to take pictures. Everybody looked so clumsy holding the weapons, but when I took them and posed, right away they asked me if I took martial arts before :) I miss it ... I really want to take a course, and after the performance I considered signing up for classes, but after being completely unable to get the price, and after they couldn't explain me a simple move, I decided against it. They were meant to punch me, and I would block their hand with a cross block, then separate my hands up and down, and twist the elbow such that they will bend forward. I blocked their punch with left hand on top, and couldn't separate it, it took them 3 times to show me, and I finally understood that it's the right arms that should go on top. If they can't explain that, how can I learn anything?? The conversation regarding the price went something like that:
Me: How much are the classes?
Him: How long you want to take them for?
Me: Just a few days
Him: Don't worry, you just come
Me: Come when?
Him: when do you want to come?
Me: Is tomorrow ok?
Him: Yes ok, ok
Me: What time?
Him: What time do you want to come?
Me: *&^%$%%^& Morning? Afternoon?
Him: Come any time
Me: So how much is 1 class?
Him: For you not a lot
Me: Not a lot for you and not a lot for me is different, how much is it approximately? 100? 500?
Him: No worries, you just come
Me: ... walking up the stairs

We got to experience something that books try to teach you about the power of belief and persistence. When you strongly believe in something, it will somehow happen one way or another ... even if you're wrong! A lot of things in Munnar had a number 6. 6pm, 6rps, 6kms ... it happened so much that I started to confuse everything, and we just ended up saying 6 to anything! :) We went somewhere, and they tried to charge us 80rps, but it's 6kms, so it should be 60rps. No, it's 8kms, - no it's 6!! We paid 60, but it was 8kms :)

Few notes about Jeff - brainwashing everybody about oxygen in blood and how that can cure cancer; Explaining everybody his trading strategies in a language that sounds Chinese to me ... and apparently not just me :)I say one thing, he replies completely something different. "My shoes are so comfortable" - yeah yeah yeah, those hills are so steep, that's why the roads are winding and are in bad condition, I guess that's why they don't have too many cars .... ummm ... right!; "I love this juice!" - yeah yeah yeah, the fruits are so cheap in here, they must grow them locally, that's another way for them to make money! ..... ummmm ... right! :)) But he's fun and funny, and we have similar interests in activities, hotel rates/sizes/locations, not being "by the book", and of course the chais and juices :)
He's super smart with his trading strategies, but can't do simple things like setting up the alarm clock, or ordering something of the menu. It would take him sometimes 5 seconds to react to something. I guess his CPU is overfilled with financial information that there is no more space left for ordinary life situations.
But I really like travelling with him :)

pix are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/PeriyarAndMunnar