Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Massage in Munnar & A Nice Cuppa Char

We started off at the Tea Museum with a cup of sweet frothy milky tea and very nice it was too, we then settled back to watch a film about the history of the company, founded by Scotsmen called Findlay, who got the land for a song on a 99 year lease as it wasn't being used for anything else. They had some set backs, awful floods in 1924 swept away what infrastructure there was, cholera and malaria were endemic. Workers medical conditions were diagnosed and treated by the planters themselves so they had first hand experience of the problems which led to an early adoption of free company healthcare with their own doctors and hospitals. During the 20s and 30s they started to improve the infrastructure with roads, power, (the hydro-electric scheme we saw on our way to Top Station) and mechanisation of the crushing, cutting, curling and drying of the tea plant leaves. The bushes themselves are productive for 100 years, if they were allowed to grow unchecked they would become trees. They are kept at about 2ft, the optimum cutting height I suppose, and the new growth clipped every seven days, initially plucked by hand now they use hand operated clippers. Anil tells us there is a move to mechanisation, one machine can do the work of 20 people, but this wasn't mentioned in the film which didn't come right up to date. I thought we were in for a bit of a Tata love in when it focused on all the good things they do in and for the community, what really surprised us though was when they said the workers own 69% of the company. There was a management buy out and while other tea companies suffered a down turn in the market Kanan Devan Hills Plantations, KDHP as they are now known as, have gone from strength to strength. We bought a couple of bags of chai in the factory shop and will remember our trip out while enjoying a cuppa when we get home.

Then we had a mooch round Munnar market, the stalls seem to carry a mixture of everything, big bags of rice, soap - this market is where Grandad Harry's Lux soap has got to, he can't find it in Tunbridge Wells any more but it is selling well in Munnar! There were cloths and bags jostling with spices and beans. There were a couple of jewelry shops at least and stalls with mysterious back rooms. The really nice thing about Munnar market is that there is absolutely no hassle, no hard sell, its all very laid back.

All to soon it was time for my Ayurvedic massage which is claimed to 'increase body flexibility and reduces fat. The veins and arteries become more elastic, the skin begins to glow and the body become more efficient. Massage improves blood circulation and clears the body of toxins' and so on and so forth - you get the picture, its a miracle worker! Actually I suppose that is a bit flippant as its more holistic than just massage or a system of medicine, we Westerners just dip in to the enjoyable easy bits.

Basically you are massaged from head to toe in copious amounts of warm oil, and then shoved in a steam box to melt it off. I was a bit worried when I saw the slab I was to be massaged on had a fire lit below but it didn't fry me. I thoroughly enjoyed my 90 mins of indulgence for about £8.00. Its left me a bit no good for nothing though which is tricky as we are meant to be packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow.

We've had a great homestay, very comfortable. Anil and his family have been fabulous hosts, kind and thoughtful, really lovely people and we've met a future Indian astronaut, Nithin their 13 year old son will I'm sure achieve his aim.

Tomorrow we are heading further south, back towards the coast. We are breaking the journey up with another homestay at Vakathanam, 10ks south of Kottayam, with Mr and Mrs Jacob who are both retired teachers. On Thursday we should get to Kovalam where we have a house for a couple of weeks - so its excursions into the kitchen and no more of Alphonsa's fabulous Keralan breakfasts.


sushantap said...

Munnar is a small yet one of the most beautiful hill stations in South India. Located in Kerala, Munnar can be reached by road and the nearest railway station and airport are more than 100 kms away. Munnar is situated in the confluence of three rivers and is characterized by vast tea gardens, woodlands and waterfalls. Some of the popular tourist locations in Munnar are Top Station, Eravikulam National Park and Mattupetti Dam, etc. SN Annexe is a very popular budget hotel in Munnar which provides all major facilities. Room rates start from Rs. 1650. Hotelpushpak.com has a good collection of Munnar hotels that you can check out.

Iris said...

Travel experience to Munnar is the most unique one .The trip to Munnar at night time throug the forest was fantastic. The lonely road, the noise of unknown insects through the forest, the chill air and mist were just amazing. Also, from high atop one could see the glistening lights of Theni and Madurai below as if looking like stars shining in the dark moonless sky. We took the picture of it, but it didn't come by well. One also has to be very careful while driving at night in the hills.

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