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

5 comments:

  1. You have really out done yourself this time! Munnar seems to be a very special place. Some people say that there are geographical locations that have special energies. Perhaps Munnar is such a place.
    You mention that the local residents seem very relaxed and happy, so perhaps it's something to do with being surrounded by people in this mind-state that causes you to feel so relaxed and peaceful. I'm
    happy for you that you have had this wonderful experience. Maybe that's why you two are sleeping so much...lol. You don't feel that you have to be so "on guard" and you are able to relax. Loved the
    pictures, as always, although I believe that some of the shots of you personally are so beautiful. You look so happy on top of the elephant! I have to say that after seeing the pictures of your marshall arts
    poses, I will rest a little easier about your safety. These guys practice daily and you look more professional in the pictures, than do they...lol. Once again, we appreciate so much that you take the time
    to document your travels both in your writing and in the amazing pictures that you take. We look forward to the next installment.
    All the best to you Yana...
    P

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  2. Обалденные пейзажи! Просто чудо! Как ты забралась на слона, он тебя хоботом подхватил? Не страшно было?

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  3. Munar vuglyadit kak nice place i ti slushishsya bolee relaxed. a kak tu sama delaesh reiki? eto kak meditaziya?

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  4. читала твой блог (написано классно, с юмором, ты у меня очень талантливая!) неужели не страшно на слонах кататься?? а какая у них кожа на ощупь? и на этих фотографиях совсем нет разрухи. на самом деле в этих местах поприличнее или тебе ее надоело снимать? и ты здорово смотришься с мечом в руках - настоящая амазонка!
    mama

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