Friday, January 30, 2009

off to the hills

well it was hard to leave kovalam and its beautiful beach but it was time to move on so we headed to kanyakumari which was a 3 hour bus ride. it's in tamil nadu which is the next state, but still very close to kerala. it's the southern most point of india, the indian ocean, arabian sea and bay of bengal all meet there. it's a popular spot of pilgrimages and when we were there i notice many more indian tourists then westerners. it was beautiful, very windy which was nice to stay cool. we stayed only for 3 nights just to see the sights and walk around a bit. from there we took a train to varkala which is back in kerala, it is another beach village on the coast. after missing out train cuz someone told us it was the wrong one as we were getting on, we arrived only a few hours behind our original schedule. we were both disappointed in varkala, it's beach and surrounding cliffs are beautiful. if you can overlook the garbage that they throw over the cliffs. but it's just a strip of shops, restaurants and guesthouses above the cliffs, there is no sense of indian culture anywhere. so we only stayed 2 days then moved on to alleppey, it was only a few hours on the train to alleppey so not to bad. once in alleppey i started to feel a little sick, with a head cold, so we just walked around a bit and we were approached by a houseboat guy, we went to see his boat and after talking a bit we agreed to go with his boat. it's the most expensive thing i've done yet it was 5000 rupees which is about $130cad. with two of us it was still expensive for india, but it is something that you have to do when your there and it really was beautiful. unfortunately all of the boats are now motorized so it's not so great for the environment, as the locals bathe in the water that we are going through as well as wash their clothes in it and after boiling it use it for cooking. and while strolling along it kinda feels like you are invading their privacy a bit, especially when their standing at the edge of the water brushing their teeth. the houseboat started at 11:30am and went to 9am the next day, their was kim and i and 3 crew guys. they cooked lunch the first day which was fish rice and many pickles and masalas, dinner was chicken curry with rice and roti, a chickpea puree, beet masala, coconut masalas with okra or green beans, it was all very good. then breakfast of eggs, iddlys, masalas, fruit and toast with chai.
after returning we hoped on a bus for a 6 hour ride to kumily, where we are now. it's up in the western ghats on the boarder with tamil nadu. it was a slow ride up windy bumpy roads but a beautiful view. we are surrounded by a wildlife sanctuary and tea and spice plantations. the temperature is much cooler as well and it rained our first night here, when the sun is out it's not to bad but at night you definitely need a blanket. we met a rickshaw driver who took us on a tea plantation tour, we couldn't go into the factory as it's closed for a month from tourists, but we walked all through the tea bushes, it's a pretty cool area. after we went to a little tea stand and had probably the best masala tea (chai) i've had yet. then he took us to a spice garden where the owner gave us a tour. it is one of the most amazing gardens i've seen, not just the spices but the flowers as well. it was full of cardamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, turmeric, coffee, papaya trees, jackfruit, cocoa tree, peppercorns and more that i can't remember right now. it was also pretty cool.
yesterday we had an ayurvedic massage, it was 600 ru ($15cad) for 90 minutes, it's not like any massage i've had before. you get naked then sit on a stool while the lady rubs lots of oil in your hair and gives you a head massage then your face as well. you then lye on a bed with no sheet, first i was on my stomach and she pours oil all over you and does long fast strokes all over your body. she works individual areas as well but it's definitely not relaxing, after you turn over and she does the front side with more oil. you are literally soaked in oil, every part of your body, then you get up and go sit in a little chamber with your head sticking out and you get a body steam for 10 minutes. i did enjoy it and after a shower my skin felt very soft, all the oils they make from ayurvedic herbs so it's supposed to be really good for you. i am now trying to get rid of my cold so i can do some hiking in the sanctuary before we leave.

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