Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A LONG day by bus to Calicut

After a relaxing breakfast on the terrace overlooking the misty mountains, we packed our bags and headed off to the bus to leave our mountain paradise.  We so enjoyed our stay at Royal Mist.  I felt like I was leaving friends and wished that I was staying a little longer to get to know Anil, Jeeva and their children better.  We have stayed in a lot of guesthouses in Europe, North America, and Asia—this ranks up in our top 5.  The beds and pillows were comfortable, the shower was great, the room was spotless, the food and tea wonderful, the location spectacular, and the hospitality and service extremely generous.  Speaking of food, we asked Jeeva what her recipe is for Garam Masala, and she says she uses equal weights of aniseed (fennel), cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and star anise.  She leaves them out for a day in the sun before grinding.  This is her grandmother’s recipe.  She also likes to use chili with more heat and so mixes regular chili powder with the milder Kashmiri one-to-one.
We didn’t have far to go to catch the bus—there’s a stop just about a hundred metres from their front gate. Our hosts came along with us to make sure we got on the right bus (even though there’s one every 15 minutes, they don’t all have the same destination).  Within about 5 minutes the right bus came along, so we hopped on, pulling our bags on after us, with a final hug for Jeeva and a hearty handshake with Anil.  We were away by about 9:40 AM, swinging down yet another narrow and twisting mountain road.  Those drivers know exactly how fast to take the curves—with inches to spare at times.
We rattled our way to our first transfer point (Perumbavoor) and arrived just after noon.  The fellow sitting beside Lloyd (once again we were sitting three abreast, with me up against the open window) asked where we were going, and he made sure that we got the right bus—we only had to wait about 10 minutes.  And almost 2 hours later we were in Thrissur, and yet another fellow passenger helped us to locate the next bus.  Lloyd went off to buy some food, and in the meantime the driver started up the engine!  I hollered out the window, and he quickly paid for everything and came back at a run.  Off we went at another brisk clip, arriving at our final destination of Kozhikode (old name Calicut) around 6:15 PM, just over 8 ½ hours transit time and a distance of about 350 km.  I was feeling VERY weary especially in the neck and shoulders because it takes a lot of effort to sit in a bouncing bus.  Plus the windblown hair—charming… 
Along the way today, besides fabulous mountainscapes, cascading water, and scary traffic we were treated to the view of four elephants dressed in their temple finery walking along the edge of the highway, accompanied by lots of young men with horns and percussion instruments.
We’re staying one night at the Hyson Heritage hotel, a basic business-type hotel, not too far from the bus station (although we hired a tuk-tuk to get us here because we weren’t exactly sure where to go.)  The first order of business was to have a bit of a wash, and wow, the grit and grime on our hands and faces from the road pollution…  We found some dinner at a “Veg, Non-veg” restaurant, sharing a chicken biryani and a bottle of mango juice, but no beer—that is only available it seems in a bar, which we never did find—for a cost of 122 rupees, about $2.50.  Back to the hotel to shower and write to you.  It feels good to be clean again.
Tomorrow morning we’ll catch yet another bus for a 3 ½ hour journey into the Wayanad Nature Preserve.  Apparently this is a beautiful area with the best chance of seeing elephants in the wild, and not many visitors.  I don’t know about internet connections so this might be the last posting for a while.

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