Charles is always careful to warn us about the long drive ahead - 120 miles today. But we are never bored for a minute. As we drove out of the mountains we passed tea plantations and stopped to photograph the tea pluckers as he called them. The process is just the same as we learned in Sri Lanka, but the plants were in clusters rather than rows. Men were fertilizing and spreading pesticide.
We came to rubber plantations at lower elevations. The trees are milked every day. A special knife is used to slice just beneath the bark and the sap drains into a coconut shell. The women empty the shells and carry milk buckets full of sap to be processed.
As we watched the scenery change out the bus windows, Charles filled us in on what's what in Kerala state. The Communist Party won many elections here starting in the 1950's and their socialistic approach spread the wealth and overall there is a higher standard of living than the rest of India. Trade unions are very powerful here and there are strikes incessantly. Large concerns like Coca Cola have tried to build factories here, but the people are so well educated they turn up their noses at such menial labor. Consequently, the unemployment rate is 40%. People who don't want to work with their hands here, emigrate to the Middle East to do manual labor. Wages are higher in the Middle East, but by the time they travel back and forth, the money comes out about the same. It makes no sense, but working abroad must have a certain cachet.
Coastal Kerala state reminded us a bit of the canal area of Ft. Lauderdale, minus the big hotels. It abounds with rental houseboats. They all have a black wooden base and the upper decks are customized by the owners using natural products - reeds, palm leaves, etc. The locals like to rent them for honeymoons. We had lunch on board and sailed for about two hours, seeing just a tiny portion of the coastal inlets. Many homes line the inlets and it was fun to watch daily life in action. Women were doing laundry in the disgusting looking brown water, slapping the cloth against the rocks. We were feeling mellow and relaxed by the time the ride ended.