Monday, February 13, 2012

Munnar--a mountain paradise

We have just had another splendid day in paradise, this time in the mountains of Munnar.  Our hosts suggested that we visit the Srishti Tea Plantation where there is a sheltered craft workshop.  We are situated about 10 km out of the town so our host drove us to Shristi, and on the way he very kindly stopped to orient us to a wonderful walk through the jungle and tea plantations, suggesting that we do this hike on our return.  (We are being so well-looked after here!)

We arrived at Srishti:

The entrance to Srishti--isn't "differently disabled" an interesting term...
I was mostly interested in Aranya, the workshop that specializes in natural dyes, and I was not disappointed.  It's a lovely workspace.  We were greeted by one of the supervisors who explained the variety of dyes they use (pomegranate, madder, indigo, tea waste, etc.) and showed us samples of the colours on different fabrics (silk, cotton, tussah silk) using different mordants.  She then showed us the work in progress--arashi shibori and block-printed batik with indigo.   There is also an area where they are experimenting with flower and leaf pounding on cotton treated with alum.  We also enjoyed the visit to the paper-making workshop next door where they are making paper from waste paper, cotton fabric, elephant dung, and many other fibres.  This is where the sheltered workshop got its start with the support of the TATA company (TATA is huge in India, from hotels to cars, trucks, and buses, to tea and other beverages and probably MANY other goods and services).  On site is also a school for "differently abled" children of the local TATA employees.  The teacher-student ratio is enviable, even by Canadian standards, about 1-4.  The children are blind, deaf, or otherwise physically and/or mentally challenged.  When we visited the school they were just finishing lunch so we weren't able to observe a lesson.  Graduates from the school are employed in the workshops, whether that is paper-making, natural-dyeing, kitchen work (we enjoyed a veggie burger in the deli for lunch), and jam-making (they grow their own fruit there, e.g. guava, strawberry, orange..)  And finally, of course, we visited the store where I bought some batik block-printed indigo-dyed linen.  Three metres...  maybe a shirt for Lloyd...he thinks...

We walked back into Munnar, about 4 km along a mostly shaded road with very little traffic (most unusual by Indian standards) so very enjoyable.  We reached the mayhem of town, and decided that we needed to buy a bottle of white wine (Lloyd likes to keep madam happy...) and asked a tuk-tuk driver to take us to a wine shop.  In Kerala, the sale of alcohol is tightly controlled by the gov't--shades of British Columbia under WAC Bennett...  and he took us the store which typically is enclosed in a cage with a line of men waiting to be served. (I wait outside while Lloyd goes in--I don't feel comfortable in that crush of men.)  As I type this, I am sipping on Sula Sauvignon Blanc, an Indian white wine which is quite acceptable.

And then we caught the bus to the dam about 2 -3 km south of town and walked to the view point...enjoyed a cup of cardamom tea (me) and masala tea (Lloyd) before continuing along the road into the jungle...  Our host had warned us that the tea plantation owners had been putting up "no trespassing" signs and that we could be chased out--while this didn't happen to us, it did to some young French women at the tea stall which is why we opted to take the long road around...and then by about 4 PM we'd had enough and Lloyd hailed a tuk-tuk to take us the rest of the way.  Where else in the world can you finish a hike but in India by hailing a tuk-tuk???  The road was EXTREMELY BUMPY--every bone and internal organ got a good shaking up.  

But he took us past the waterfall which had been our destination (not much water because it's the dry season) and then all the way back to our guest house.  He earned his 200 rupees for sure--Lloyd had said 150 at the outset and then when we finally arrived at Royal Mist Lloyd gave him another 50 which is probably overly generous but that bumpy road probably played havoc with his tires and suspension.  We're getting used to this tipping game...

It's now a beautiful sunset and we're about to enjoy an aubergine curry dinner because we told our host that eggplant is Lloyd's favourite vegetable.  So, that's a bit of life in paradise!

Lloyd says he will blog next about the spice plants for your edification...  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Janet,
    I just looked out my front window, and not a tuk-tuk in sight. Guess I'll have to walk. You are in paradise. Thanks for sharing.
    Don S.