Saturday, February 11, 2012

Letter from Kumily

We left our backwaters paradise by canoe about 9:15 Friday morning—it cost us 5 rupees each plus 5 rupees for our luggage (about 35₵)—and it was a wonderfully graceful way to leave.  As I typed that word “graceful”, I meant that the brief 5 minute journey was peaceful and calm, however when getting in and out of the canoe I felt anything but graceful! 

Our taxi was waiting for us—our packs were stowed on the car top rack and off we went.  We were quickly on a main road and into the traffic that we had heard very faintly in the distance from Green Palm.  The scenery was still familiar—rice paddies and canals, and one canal in particular was carpeted with the beautiful purple water hyacinth.  We had  learned on the evening walk at Green Palm that this plant was imported to Africa from Brazil, and then to India because of its beautiful flowers, however it sadly has become very invasive, choking up the waterways.  The only proven control is to open the barriers at the ocean and let in the sea water once a year because it is not salt-tolerant; however enough survives to propagate anew.

The trip to Kumily was about four hours.  We made one stop for Lloyd to buy some juice, and I did some clothes shopping!  While on the island I had noticed that the women working around their homes (including doing dishes, laundry and ablutions in the river or canal) usually wore long and very comfortable looking simple dresses.  I saw some of these hanging outside a shop, and so I had a closer look.  I was greeted very graciously by an older gentleman and (I presume) his wife and they showed me a vast selection of these dresses.  Some had collars, some had scoop necks, some had elastic at the sleeve hems—there were no duplicates.   All were cotton, and none have any seam finishes (easily rectified when I get home).  I broke my vow to only buy one thing in a store, and chose two dresses for a whopping amount of about $3 each.  My purchases were carefully folded and put first into a paper bag and then into a plastic bag.  When Lloyd showed up just in time to pay (I didn’t have any money on me!) the gentleman gave him a gift of a handkerchief.  All-in-all, a very pleasurable experience.  This is what a local shopping experience can be like which is vastly different from a tourist handicraft emporium where the pressure to buy is relentless along with the expectation of haggling.
Within a couple of hours, our elevation was increasing rapidly, and the road became very twisty.  There was also less humidity further away from the sea, and a little cooler as well making the journey quite tolerable with the windows down.  Our driver was cautious and didn’t take the risks that we saw other drivers taking such as passing on curves!  The trees became larger—more broadleaf and fewer palms.  We started to see a lot of rubber plantations (rubber trees are tall and thin) as well as coffee and tea plantations.
Lloyd had booked Chrissie's Hotel from Green Palm on the basis of a recommendation from another guest, and we are very happy here.  It’s clean and comfortable, and the restaurant bakes its own good bread.  As much as we’ve enjoyed the local cuisine all along the way, it’s good to have food close to what we’re used to on occasion.  I had a margarita pizza and Lloyd had pasta with tomato cheese sauce our first night here.
There is still a significant Christian population in this part of Kerala, and Friday night we saw a procession that we think was to honor Saint Sebastian—we saw similar banners in Sri Lanka.  Everyone seemed to be dressed in their best clothes and carrying flowers.  And again Saturday night there were huge crowds at the Catholic church—standing room only, with people standing at the doors looking in—after a similar procession accompanied with traditional drums and cymbals.  Our hotel is also located between two mosques, each with competing loud speakers for the call to prayer—it’s interesting that they’re off by about 30 seconds.  We hear one call start, and then the 2nd begins but on a slightly different note.  The tune and metre aren’t the same either, hence my use of the adjective “competing”.  And perhaps they’re different Muslim sects.
Kumily is on the edge of a popular wildlife sanctuary called Periyar, known for its elephant and tiger population.  We were too late to get onto a guided walk, so we walked in ourselves—rather unpleasant and hot because we had to walk on the asphalt road, there being no alternate walking trail—to the head of the lake.  We didn’t see any tigers, but we saw an elephant grazing contentedly across the lake.

I’ve had some good knitting time in both Kumily and at Green Palm.  I’ve started another shawl with the yarn I bought in Singapore.  It’s going to be a simple triangle this time—I’m increasing with a yarn over at the beginning of every row.  
Our balcony and the view

We took in a Kathakali performance Saturday night.  Based on Hindu epics, actors tell the story with elaborate hand and facial gestures rather than words, and are accompanied by a singer (in this case a wonderful baritone) and drums and cymbals.  We arrived in time to observe some of the preparations (make-up and costume) however in spite of the excellent demonstration and explanation in advance I didn’t really follow the story, being too distracted by the visuals!

We finished off Saturday with a so-so meal where we had to wait well over an hour for our food, but fortunately we were there with new friends from Quebec, folks we had met at Green Palm.  The conversation made up for the poor service and lack lustre meal.  Next time I’m sure the food will be much better, and we’ll enjoy a bottle of good wine too! 

No comments:

Post a Comment