Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy New Year - Part 1: Kerala without a Houseboat

We just returned from a three-week trip to Southern India. We arrived in Fort Kochi, Kerala on New Year's day. We stayed in a great hotel by the ancient Chinese fishing nets, first installed on the coast by the grandson of Gengis Khan. It was hot. And it was humid. And the mosquitos were the size of small children. So, instead of cruising the backwaters on a houseboat as planned, we got into an Ambassador and travelled up the mountains to spend a few days in a guest house on the Madupatty tea estate in the Kanan Devan Hills Plantation. It was breathtaking. Rolling hills of sharp, bright green as far as the eye could see. The air was clean and crisp. The mist rolled around the mountain tops and the wild flowers that lined the roads were like vibrant firecrackers. The people were sweet and hospitable, without exception. We had Kerala breakfasts every morning (featuring all the coconut chutney I could eat. Yum!) and masala chai every afternoon.

We (ok: I) decided to go for an "authentic ayurvedic massage" - more like let me slather you in oil and ask you questions about your trip. My husband kept pointing out to me that there was nothing "authentic" about the place we were going. Notice, he pointed out, that there are no brown people on any of the adverts. There are no locals in the waiting room, just wide-eyed foriegners. It had all the hallmarks of a classic tourist trap. But I didn't care. When in Kerala, I insisted. My hair is still a little greasy and the smell of the ayurvedic "herbs" linger in my nostrils...I am sure that there is genuine ayurveda in Kerala. But where we went wasn't it...

Our trip up the mountain coincided with the morning bath of local temple elephants. We saw three: one 40-year-old female and two little 5 and 6 year olds. They were so close to us and completely tame, having lived in the temple all their lives. After watching fearless little kids approach them, I too gathered the courage to get close, touch their skin and say hello.

I've included this picture with the Uncle in the jaunty white suit and healthy moustache because he managed to get into every one of my elephant shots. That's the thing about India, if there is something interesting happening, there's little to no chance that you'll be experiencing it on your own. But then again, there is so much happening you don't mind sharing it. More to come on our trip - stay tuned.

1 comment: said...

Kerala looks beautiful! I loved your descriptions of the greenery and air - such a polar opposites to my urban holiday! we had a blast. sorry we couldn't connect. miss you.