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:
Women pick the tea leaves:
And women also make bricks, by packing clay into moulds:
And men fire them up:
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):
And I got to see a tamarind tree up close, full of pods of that sour-sweet fruit:
We shared the roads with bullock carts:
And giant tour buses:
But it was all worth it… all for the views:
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):
And arrived at our hotel to be greeted by a sweet rose-flavoured Welcome Drink:
And a gorgeous meal of tawa-cooked veggies (a tawa is a cast-iron skillet, also used to cook flatbreads):
With naan from the tandoor (naan is the best flatbread of life, a tandoor is a special brick oven to cook it)”
And a brilliant carrot and cilantro kulcha (kulcha is like naan, but with stuff on or in it):
And I ended my meal with my favourite drink, masala chai (spiced black tea, usually made with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger):
And we had some chill time to enjoy the lush surroundings of our hotel:
Which had cacao pods by the swimming pool:
And stunning flowers on every pathway:
While in Periyar, we also headed to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, where we met this little guy (not a tiger):
And when on a boat ride to see the lake scenery:
And the elephants, including babies!!!
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:
Breakfasts at the hotel were also delicious, especially the savory fried bananas:
But my favourite part of Periyar was our visit to the tea plantation!
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.
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:
The Connemara factory makes only black, loose leaf unflavoured tea, mainly for export to England. And it was quite tasty!
We saw the new baby tea bushes:
Which are all wrapped up in coconut husks to protect them from the elements:
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!
In fact, I think it’s time for a cuppa.