Hope this finds you all in good health
The week here in Fort Kochi has been fairly relaxing and I’m finding that it’s ok too slow down and not be looking for places to go and things to do all the time. ( which is what I’d probably do on holiday but only because time is limited, but now it’s not)
The weather has been hot although I think I’ve just about acclimatised so have felt more comfortable on runs and been able to do a bit more as well as add some yoga in on the same days which is nice.
There’s not many sites left in Fort Kochi that I haven’t visited now but did get around a couple that I missed this week.
The first one being the Indo – Portuguese museum here which is quite small and mainly consists of a history of the Portuguese Churches built here beginning in 1500 and their artefacts and how they changed over the past 4 centuries with the arrival of the Dutch and the British and how the Santa Cruz Basilica is the only one still being used.
Another day I decided to have a walk over to the other side of Kochi to the area that they call Jew town again as previously I had missed seeing the Paradesi Synagogue that was built in the 1500s and remains the oldest active Synagogue in the Commonwealth and is still in use today although most of the Jewish community that were along the Marabar coast returned to Israel when it was formed in 1948. The Synagogue itself is well maintained and worth a visit.
On the Wednesday I’d booked a tour to go inland to Munnar which is about 130 km from Fort Kochi and takes roughly 4 hours by car ( as the roads are pretty bad ) so at 0700 on the Wednesday I was met by the car and driver and off we went. ( one good thing I’ve noticed so far with the drivers here is if they say they’ll met you at a certain time they will be there on time or early )
I’m still fascinated by the amount of traffic and apparent chaos when driving through the cities here in this case Ernakulam and I did see my first set of traffic lights since being here in India that most of the drivers were obeying ( usually everyone just goes for it at intersections and works their way through with excessive use of horns) Once away from the city through it wasn’t to bad and we had a few interesting stops along the way to Munnar.
The first stop was just quick with the driver acting as tour guide ( their was only myself in the car ) and he showed me how they slash the rubber trees to collect the sap and use the latex to produce rubber.
Then it was on to a restaurant for a quick break before visiting 2 waterfalls along the way.
As we drove inland and started to get into the hills, ( Western Gnats which run for 1600 km parallel to the west coast of India ) it became noticeably cooler and misty which felt quite nice after the usual heat. that I was used to.
At the second waterfalls I saw my first monkeys since being in India when a small troop of them came down to sit on a wall and seemed to be eating some sort of flower that was growing on the trees, they didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence and I got quite close to them without any problems, ( I’ll try to put some pictures in the blog ).
The next stop was at a small spice farm on the way to Munnar and although very small I was surprised at the variety of things they were growing which included Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, Turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, Cacao beans ( lots of chocolate made in this area ), lemongrass, different types of chillies and lots of other things that I hadn’t ever heard of that they use for traditional Indian medicines. The tour itself was very informative ( and I didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from eating various leafs and other things offered to me ) but it was not what I expected a spice farm to look like, I think I was expecting large fields of spices and this small farm was just set back amongst the trees and grown without the use of pesticides ( maybe there are larger operations farming spices here but you didn’t see them as I expected from the car )
It was then on to Munnar, which is surrounded by tea plantations for as far as the eye can see and which now along with tourism is the main industry in the area. The first stop was the tea museum where we were taken though a brief history of the area and how the British took to the area whilst exploring it and decided to make it a base, eventually bringing in tea plants from China as they found it was the one plant that thrived in the hilly terrain and climate.
The second part of the tour I found the most interesting as it seemed to be a bit of a lecture from a guy who surprised me by advocating the use of green tea because of it’s health benefits ( I had always associated India which black tea and that is what 99 percent of the population here drink ) he also had strong views on big pharma and how they are trying to keep us all sick and on their medications and spoke about the traditional Indian medications derived from plants and known as Ayurveda which also uses massage and yoga as part of its practice. It was interesting listening to his views though which included as well the evils of using toothpaste and linked in with a lot of conspiracy theories which may contain some truth in amongst it somewhere. But it was unexpected on a tour of a tea museum.
The final section but less entertaining was the processing part which was less complicated than I thought it would be and involved the leaves being chopped to various degrees on a conveyor belt and dried using eucalyptus wood that was bought over from Australia and planted here in the 1800s. The finished tea was then graded and packaged. The black tea grown here doesn’t go for export as the Indian market for it is so big.
They have also started to make green tea here as it has become more popular the world over but involves less processing and involves withering and drying in sunlight or warm air.
By the time the tour of the museum was finished it was 3 o’clock so it was back to the hotel and after checking in, I decided to go over to a traditional Kerala show that started at 5, it was pretty much the same as the one I had seen when I arrived in Kochi but still interesting and the costumes and makeup are fantastic but unlike Kochi the audience here were mostly Indian and some were coaxed onto the stage beforehand just to entertain us by trying to copy some of the facial expressions used by the actors.
Afterwards there was a demonstration of the traditional Kerala martial arts that I felt was good but more like a gymnastics floor display ( lots of backflips and cartwheels and jumping through flaming hoops ) and choreographed sword fighting.
The next day the driver had recommended an organised tour of a tea plantation which involved a guide and a hike through the plantation and to the top of a nearby hill ( about 2000 metres ) with views of the surrounding area. There was a young couple from Sweden also on the hike who traveled as much as possible and made their living though photography and you tube posts, the guide that took us was very knowledgeable on the plantations and the area and probably gave us more information than I had gotten the previous day at the museum, also collecting discarded plastic bottles and carrying them backdown to dispose of.
It was interesting to hear how the workers were provided with housing and other benefits for their families in the hope that their children would stay and continue to work in the plantations.
It probably took about 3 hours to reach the top of the climb with numerous stops to take pictures and as we had a clear day and the views were amazing compared to what I had seen at sea level so far in India.
After a short break at the top we made our way back down and into Munnar for lunch, and then it was back to the hotel to pick up my driver and a long drive back to Kochi arriving back around 6 o’clock.
It was a good couple of days in Munnar and perhaps even longer in the area would’ve been nice but I managed to get a glimpse of Kerala away from the coast and with the help of the driver actually saw quite a lot in a short space of time.
The next day was pretty much just taking it easy with a short run and some yoga in the morning and a walk around Fort Kochi later on.
I’ve now got just less than a week left in Fort Kochi and should be in Mysore this time next week if all goes to plan.
I’ve booked and overnight bus from Ernakulam to Mysore which strangely enough is easier and faster than the train as the train goes to Bangalore first then you have to change there for Mysore but the bus will be something different anyway.
Mysore should be good and quite a change from what I’ve been doing so far in India and the biggest city yet, so I’m looking forward to it and also spending less time in one place now as I make my way slowly over to the eastern side of India via Mysore, Hampi, Bangalore, Chennai and possibly the Andaman islands before heading north.
So until then take care 🙏