|Still in Kochi: Breakfast at Vasco Cafe, house were Vasco da Gama died in 1524...it is a homestay w/ 2 rooms, one where he died, and walls 3' thick.
Took off for ferry & bus to Munnar(left at noon) from Ernakulam - 11 r.! About 2 pm we drove thru a major furniture mfg area, doz & doz of outlets selling every kind of wood/textile sofa, chair, table, you name it. The road is new asphalt and wide, 2 lanes. Half hour later we begin climbing into mtns & enter natl forest - we now see the reason furniture industry is here - plenty of raw material from which to draw. We witnessed both clear cut areas & logs piled periodically along side the road. Still, quite a bit of treed area and visible jungle/forest, nice river & waterfall tho now in dry season and flow is low. Within 20 km road becomes very narrow, 1 1/2 lanes & even tho newly resurfaced, very bumpy! Next we come to the green green hillsides(actually mtn sides) of tea plantations w/ 100s of Tamil women ending their tea picking day - bags of leaves piled along the road. A lot cooler up here and goodness me, poinsettias blooming all along the road!
In bus and in town that nite we met and talked a long while w/ very interesting and well travelled fellow from Holland - Danny had many stories, humorous and otherwise to tell, we enjoyed his company for the very short time we saw him.
Mani our driver & guide
Name Munnar is Tamil...Muno=3 & arro=river. He told us alot more about tea & picking:
Plant here lives 25 years before it is replaced. Tea pluckers get 120 r./day and over 20 kg they get 1 r./kg, usually picking 45 kg/day. In 1 mo. each plant is picked 2 times. Special trees are planted among the tea plants, silver volk or bulk, which conserve water in rainy season and then release it thru their roots when soil becomes dry. Lots of 'grandis' (like eucalyptus but green, grown for fire wood used to dry leaves). Lots of wild verbena, shrubby here like small bush.
At Mattupatty Lake (dam produces 2 mw of power), plus we pass Indo cattle farm(milk for the region), elephant ride park, Echo Point - Kundalay Lake(reservoir) where tourists peddle around in small boats. We see them using clippers on tea plants, these ladies get 50-60 kilo/day - taller plants. At Topstation 2000 m. high we see Kerala-Tamil Nadu border...road in T.N. is much much worse! Mani who is 29 (his mother & wife both are pickers) said that on Jan 1 temperature got down to -3 C and he had ice on his tuk tuk window, the first time in his life he has seen ice form like this. It caused a lot of frost damage to tea plants all around, especially in low lying areas.