India: Periyar, Kerala

As soon as we crossed from Tamil Nadu into the state of Kerala (in South India), I knew we “weren’t in Kansas anymore”.  All of a sudden things were impossibly lush and green.  We had a gorgeous drive seeing all that goes on in Kerala — women do the farming:

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Women pick the tea leaves:

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And women also make bricks, by packing clay into moulds:

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And men fire them up:

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On our road trip to Periyar, we also saw several huge sculptures & shrines, just off the side of the road (kind of like the giant chairs/donuts/cowyboy boots that have become a part of small-town USA roadtrips):

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And I got to see a tamarind tree up close, full of pods of that sour-sweet fruit:

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We shared the roads with bullock carts:

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And giant tour buses:

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But it was all worth it… all for the views:

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Once we arrived in Periyar itself, we stared longingly at salty/sweet banana chips (that we didn’t eat due to our self-imposed “we don’t have local immune systems, so let’s not die from street food” rules):

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And arrived at our hotel to be greeted by a sweet rose-flavoured Welcome Drink:

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And a gorgeous meal of tawa-cooked veggies (a tawa is a cast-iron skillet, also used to cook flatbreads):

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With naan from the tandoor (naan is the best flatbread of life, a tandoor is a special brick oven to cook it)”

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And a brilliant carrot and cilantro kulcha (kulcha is like naan, but with stuff on or in it):

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And I ended my meal with my favourite drink, masala chai (spiced black tea, usually made with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger):

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And we had some chill time to enjoy the lush surroundings of our hotel:

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Which had cacao pods by the swimming pool:

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And stunning flowers on every pathway:

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While in Periyar, we also headed to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, where we met this little guy (not a tiger):

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And when on a boat ride to see the lake scenery:

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And the elephants, including babies!!!

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We also saw repeats of all the other animals we saw at Ranthambore last year… no tigers, but lots of deer & birds.

After a ferocious day on safari, we headed back for drinks at the hotel — I indulged in a coconut milk & fresh pineapple juice colada:

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Breakfasts at the hotel were also delicious, especially the savory fried bananas:

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But my favourite part of Periyar was our visit to the tea plantation!

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Tea grows in short (waist-high) bushes right the way up the hillsides.  The farmers make the tea bushes stop short at easy-picking height and cut them Bonsai-style into submission, otherwise they’d be tall tall trees.

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We visited the Connemara Tea Factory & Plantation (an Irishman established a tea factory, hence the Irish name), and got to tour both the factory and the grounds:

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The Connemara factory makes only black, loose leaf unflavoured tea, mainly for export to England.  And it was quite tasty!

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We saw the new baby tea bushes:

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Which are all wrapped up in coconut husks to protect them from the elements:

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We went on a tour inside the factory, which showed the total process of making tea leaves for sale — the most amazing part was the smell.  A number of us on the tour decided that drinking tea was so-last-year and that from now on we were just going to inhale the tea aroma.  Ohhhhhh the smell of tea leaves roasting.  If you ever get a chance, you need to go sniff roasting tea!

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In fact, I think it’s time for a cuppa.

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7 Comments on “India: Periyar, Kerala”

  1. May 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    I love Kerala!

  2. May 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Those bulls look skinny :( Nice photos!

  3. May 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    Just stumbled across your blog. Liked the visual documentation of periyar. Kerala is a VISUAL POETRY! kindly visit my photoessay blog and leave your imprint too. Latest story is about “Work is worship!” http://sreeniviews.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/work-is-worship-so-they-say/ Thanks

  4. May 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I have really been enjoying your India travel blog entries. A trip to India in on my list to do. Did you do an organized tour? Would you willing to write a summary of your itinerary and where you stayed at each location?

    • May 2, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

      Hi Gretel!

      We did an organized tour through Goway, who I would recommend HIGHLY. We’ve been to India with them twice now, and they set us up with this itinerary: Scenic South India. We added on 3 nights in Goa at the beginning of the trip to get over jetlag and make it a real holiday.

      Goway’s representatives in India are Trail Blazers International, who did a fabulous job for us on that end.

      You’ll love India — I hope you make it there.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. India: Kumarakom, Kerala | The Kitchen Operas - May 3, 2012

    [...] I could have stayed forever in Periyar, we continued our adventures through Kerala (in South India) to Kumarakom — the land of [...]

  2. India: Spice Plantations in Goa & Periyar | The Kitchen Operas - June 10, 2012

    [...] lucky to go to two different spice plantations when we were in South India: one in Goa, and one in Periyar (Kerala).  The pictures in this post are from both [...]

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