Once through the city and surrounding farmland,
the road became VERY winding as we continued up through the highlands --
many, many hairpin turns and crazy drivers. The area reminded us so much
of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. We could see lots of plantations
and this area, which was once a national forest, is changing because of
privitization. As we kept climbing, we saw tea on the hillsides. There
were also plant nurseries and green houses, again, much as we saw in Malaysia.
Suddenly we stopped for a photo-op -- really a strange
experience as we could see a mother elephant and her baby eating on the
side of the turn-off. And there was also a great ape and an anaconda! Sitting
behind them, a man was whittling a big stick. On closer look, we saw these
were all mechanical. . . other than the man himself, we think.
The view was breath-taking . . . a big steep drop!
It was a bit cooler up here and not quite as humid as down on the plains.
We've featured more Highland photos in the OUTTAKES
Our bus made a toilet stop at a coffee bar. We had
mango peach smoothie, a RASMALAI smoothie - with cardamom, vanilla, etc.,
also a piece of really dense chocolate cake (Cocoa Fantasy).
Going through one of the small villages, we spotted
a queue of men in front of a doorway - Liquor Store! Alcoholism is a real
problem here in Kerala. The government is trying to control this by closing
many of the bars. But this has had no effect. One of our fellow travellers,
said it was quite a process to buy liquor here. There was always a queue
-- almost like prohibition days. Customer would go up to a cage-like window,
look through a slat and order their booze. Some of our crew went to have
a look, and the new Brits really wanted some liquor. There was a bit of
harassment and such from the local men against our female customers, but
vodka eventually was purchased. Sue-On went across the way and picked up
a huge mango and three oranges for 150 rupees -- she had no trouble :).
Finally, the bus turned onto the narrow rough road
that took us up to our hotel. We were on the 10th floor with a beautiful
view from out on the huge terrace on one side and a balcony on the other.
The room was, as usual, a surprise. Walk in and there was a sink on one
wall, a glass table and two chairs, and a couch with a blanket that would
pull out into a bed. WHAT?! There was another door, and it led to the bedroom.
Then another door that led to the bathroom (without the sink) and a door
beside it that led to a huge terrace.
It was a bit cooler up here and there was a slight
breeze. We could see all over the valley -- very lush and green! The room
was well used but clean. Some of the other members got unusual suites:
three sleeping rooms that were assigned to two people. The joke was:
Who else would they find sleeping "with them" when they woke up? There
was even one room where there were many pairs of shoes outside the door.
Maybe the employees?
After settling in, we went out for a late supper via
the bus as we had to go down to the town. We're still amazed at how the
drivers can manoeuver these big buses on narrow lanes and tight corners
. . . and in the dark! When we entered the Woodland restaurant the room
was pretty stuffy, but we were led to the back into another dining room
Cricket was playing on the TV, much to the amusement
of our Brit and Ozzie colleagues -- always slightly bewildering to many
North Americans. Bill liked the hot’n’sour soup he had earlier and thought
he’d try again. This time, no cashews, but Sue-On ordered cashew beef stir-fry
and jeera rice. Thought we’d lay off the heavy spices for a change. It
was not like anything we have ever had, but it was fine. Beef, of course,
was not the AAA we are used to ;-)
Back at the hotel we made plans to meet for breakfast
at eight and leave for the “caves” and nature walk at 9. We were a little
leery about trying to manage kilimetre walk followed by the 347 steep rock
steps up to the cave. Bill’s bad leg was still not great, and sitting for
all those hours didn’t help.
Bill had to go down to the lobby to use the WiFi, while
Sue-On stayed in the cool room to do some catch-up on our travel journal.
She did a great job of posting adventures to our family Facebook group.