09/11/2009 - 12/11/2009
When we got off the bus in Kumily we fended off the usual slew of tuk-tuk drivers that wanted to help us find a place to stay (with unmentioned commissions to them for the referral). Then as I was buying water someone got talking to Sue, offered to take us to "his brother"'s new hotel, and she thought it would be worth a look. I'm usually more of a sucker for a sales pitch than she is so I followed, ignoring my useful reflex of wanting to shake off people trying to help me spend money. It ended up being a great decision. 5 minutes walk from the places recommended in the guide book and city center, there were several very nice places, some even living up to the title of hotel. The one the tuk tuk driver dropped us off at was not quite done being built, had almost no customers (being off the guide book map), and we eventually bargained them down to 250 Rs ($5.50) for a large room with king-sized bed, tv (including HBO Movies), and hot water. Great value for money, and confirmation to trust woman's intuition over my own. Unfortunately we didn't take pics of the place.
We took a scheduled tour of a tea plantation and factory and a spice garden, and we were the only two people on the tour. Having never even seen a tea plantation I found it very interesting. Because of the way the tea is harvested (new leaves are cut), each plant is trimmed in such a way that it does not touch the neighboring plant. Also, the trees are cut very short and pruned regularly, so that a 100 year old tea tree, which could grow 20 metres tall, will in fact be the same size as a bush shrub so that all leaves on the surface of the tree can be reached by a labourer.
The spice garden and flower garden had some wierd stuff, like a fruit which is a hallow spiky ball with nothing inside; trees with long furry leaves ("cat's tails"), and pineapple plants.
The tour ended as night was falling, with a quick stop at a coffee plantation, which had lots of big spiders on webs between the trees (spiders about 6 inches including legs, nets several feet across).
That night we found out the wonders of chicken 65: spicy chicken deep-fried on roadside woks, and sold for the bargain price of 15 rupees (30 cents) per 100g (roughly $1.50/lb for freshly cooked chicken). So good, so cheap. Next to one of the stands was a truck full of cows.
That night Sue wasn't feeling well, so I went alone to a Kalari (Indian traditional martial art) demonstration. It was good, but because the fighting was choreographed (especially with weapons - like dagger vs cloth; sword vs bare hands) it was hard to tell what an actual battle would look like.
The main reason we went to Kumily because our trusty guidebook raved about Periyar national park as the premier nature reserve in India, with an awesome boat ride that offers the opportunity to see much wildlife and varied forest. Unfortunately a week before we got there, one boat from the fleet sunk, killing 30 people; since then all boat rides were suspended. It is also not permitted to walk off the paved road without a guide. So we walked along the main road from end to end, saw the docked boats, saw a couple monkeys, a hornet nest and a deer, and were generally disappointed about our stop at Periyar nature reserve.