Monday, January 31, 2011

A higher place

Eravikulam National Park is a must if you want to see the endangered Nilgiri tahr. Half the worlds remaining population is found here. The Tahr is the evolutionary link between primitive goat antelopes and true goats. Today was the last day the park is open before it shuts for the breeding season. The mountain these little fellas leap around is still part of the Western Ghats its called Anamudi, at 2695 meters it is the highest peak south of the Himalayas and we climbed it!

So off we set, Joseph at the wheel, honking away at each bend. He drops us at the gate and we get our tickets - 465Rs including the bus and camera for both of us which is about £6.50. Indian Nationals pay less, we were suprised at how popular it was. There really is a big home tourist market. We board the National Park bus and roar 4ks up an even steeper section to walk the final leg to the top. You have to keep strictly to the tarmac path, Rangers are placed at strategic intervals to ensure you do. Then there they are, right in front of you, some of the friendliest endangered animals you could wish to meet.

Back down we go, honking madly. Past the Tea Factory Museum - we are 'doing' that tomorrow as it is closed on Mondays - to pull up outside a smart looking building with the most fabulous garden in front that incorporated strawberries and vegetables with a riot of flowers many of which you would see in an English garden - sweet williams, sunflowers, antirrhinums, marigolds, roses, and so on. We have arrived at Srishti Nullatanni Estate, part of the vast Tata conglomerate. This particular project was initially started as occupational therapy for the physically and mentally challenged youngsters of tea workers many of whom have intermarried in their small communities over the years. It has three main sections, a preserves unit that makes strawberry jam, hence the strawberry patch outside! A paper making unit that manufactures different varieties of paper, when we looked round they were fulfilling a huge order for carrier bags and assembling envelopes with transparent windows, they also make wonderful hand made papers with all sorts of natural ingredients including elephant dung! The final section was the natural dye unit Aranya Naturals, where they were making the most beautiful tie dye, wax resist fabrics using natural local dye stuffs like Eucalyptus, Lemon Grass, tea waste, Cashew, amongst many others. Cameras weren't allowed so I can't show you the processes but there was a fabulous level of skill displayed by these young people, some 36 youngsters working with fabrics and 28 in the paper department.

A quick visit to the ATM at Munnar on the way back which is quite a palaver as there is an armed guard outside and he will only let you in when the previous customer leaves. Withdrawal accomplished we make a quick phone call to book an Ayurvedic massage for me tomorrow. Back to base camp. That is our Monday here in the Western Ghats.

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