Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Trip in The Western Ghats

Breakfast at 7.00 am on the balcony in the cool morning air. What a relief from the humid coast. we set off for Top Station half an hour later, some 6,000 ft up the twisting hairpin bends mercifully empty early on a Sunday morning, through Munnar town itself still asleep, all the while surrounded by tea. It looks as though some crazed topiarist has been let loose in the mountains and has carved out a patchwork quilt to soften its outlines.

Most of the tea is owned by Tata (the company that bought out Tetley a few years ago) who are rated as good employers locally. They wanted to raise the workers wages but other nearby plantation owners disagreed so instead they give them extra benefits such as health cover and a share in the profits (but not a very big one I would think). We see a few pickers out today, both men and women, usually they work six days a week 8am to 5pm.

We pass Mattupetty, a large lake with a hydro electricity dam that provides electric for the tea factories, Munnar and outlying areas. Its feeder lake, Kundala is higher up, its dam is about 100 years old but reassuringly solid looking.

Top Station straddles Kerala and Tamil Nadu so we stroll in each. On the Kerala side you can see tea, on the Tamil side it is all slopes of lemon grass. Tamil Nadu is much drier, because of the rain shadow with all the rain falling on Kerala's side of the mountains.

On our way down we stop at Kundala and take a rowing boat out, it is gorgeous, like a good summers day and if you half close your eyes the surrounding mountains could be Scotland or the Lakes. Its good to listen to the bird song, watch the kingfishers at work while idly wondering how fish get into a lake that high up a mountain!

Back at base camp Keith goes for a walk with Amil, his daughter and Anna a Swedish woman who is out here setting up a project to provide work for women, she is leaving tomorrow. They walk round the block, and encounter a snake along the way which reared up at them preparing to strike, a woman comes along and saves them by knocking it on the head with a very big stick! Meanwhile I'm safely sorting out my photos and mulling over this blog but hear all about the excitement on their return.

1 comment:

Philippa said...

Wow! Your photos look amazing. Haven't had time to read all the blurb - off for an early night, 2 day conference looms!! Will look properly on Wednesday x