Sunday, 2 December 2012

Kochi and Munnar - powercuts, tea plantations, amazing views and VERY local food!

2nd-4th December

The rest of Kochi (2 days before Munnar):

So the next couple of days in Kochi were basically just chilled. We checked out of the acomm we checked into last night and went down the road as they had no more rooms. This place was even hotter and we ended up sitting in the dark for an hour that eve due to the powercuts! But the owner was very friendly again - everyone down south is so friendly we discovered very quickly!

We checked out the Chinese fishing nets, the beach (which was more just rocks and sea), frequented our seafood restaurant where you pick out your selected fresh seafood (you could get 8 jumbo tiger prawns for like 500 rupees!) then they take it to the restaurant and grill it for you in whatever you want (I normally had garlic, ginger and lemon). We also met some really nice locals from eating there so much and getting drunk there (bring your own alcohol so long as the police don't see, so it was normally disguised in coke bottles and they would let us mix it out the back). Everywhere in Kochi closed at 11pm so we went there every night we were in Kochi! The main guy was Jin, who owned the restaurant, and his mates/workers. They were all so so lovely and we arranged to go to Alleppey with them after we came back from Munnar, on their motorbikes with two of the guys' French girlfriends. Me and Laura were initially a little dubious as we hardly knew them but we eventually got to know them a little better and wanted to do it with people rather than on our own so we took them up on their offer in the end!

4-5-6th December

Munnar:

After Kochi we decided we wanted to trek up to the cooler mountains and tea plantations of Munnar. So we decided rather than get a bus which doesn't stop, we'd get a taxi from the lovely guy who owned the tour place next door to our regular restaurant, his friend was the taxi driver who was really lovely and LOVED taking pictures with Laura's camera. The whole trip including the taxi only cost us about 5000 rupees each for the whole two days which wasn't bad, plus we got to stop off along the way for waterfalls and scenery.

We left in the afternoon of the 3rd day in Kochi. We were intially planning on renting out our own car to drive ourselve, thought a road trip would be cool but after the first 5mins in the car with the taxi driver, we came to a very quick conclusion that it would NOT have been a good idea - Indian roads are a nightmare, and the drivers are maniacs!! The amount of near misses we had just on one journey up were enough to put us off ever driving in even South India!

When we arrived in Munnar that evening the driver took us to several places that were too expensive to stay in but that he was able to get a room in for free. We felt guilty as if we went elsewhere he would have to sleep in the car but everywhere was too expensive. So he begrudgingly took us to somewhere around the corner, that was like 4 bungalows inside a building, no windows, no shower, hard beds! But it was the cheapest place and we'd lost the will to live by this point and it was getting late. So we checked in (the only ones there for both nights) and it turned out he could get a room there so we felt less guilty. Then we went into town for a meal at a lonely planet recommended place (which looked like a shack) and had a feast for a bargain (our eyes were too big for our bellies). We also ate in the dark for a while due to the powercuts.

The next day we arose early, the driver quickly learnt that Laura and Christina only ever get ready slowly and are always later than the time we're told to meet! We first went to the main tea plantation for a tour, video about it's history and some free Chai (and I cheekily went back for more, you gotta have more than one cup of free chai! It's just too good not to!) We also got some essential oils which they made there (tea tree etc) and then posed for a million photo's which the driver was happy to snap away at. We went for lunch at a very very local joint, where there are only 4 tables, you ate with your hands and only one thing on the menu - Kerala Fried Fish Curry! You get a tray with your rice, raita, poppadom, and some curry sauce which we were told to pour over the rice, then you get a whole crispy fried fish to eat with the rice and sauce. It was actually the most amazing meal I'd had in the whole of India (other than the fresh seafood in Kochi). The driver taught us how to eat with our hands and I think it actually made the meal more tasty because it was so authentic. We washed our hands in a bucket of water after, and had some herbal tea (it was disgusting) and for the whole meal, (including top-ups on rice and popadoms/sauce etc) it only cost us a grand 60 rupees (£1)!

Then he drove us to the hills and we went up a national park, you have a very steep climb on a shuttle bus and then a 10 minute walk up to the top of this park, where the rare mountain goats reside (we saw one!!). The views were stunning and we had many photo's taken of us with local school children and honeymoon couples! We then went for a drive to the lake made by the dam and then to Echo Point which is a beautiful riverside flanked by mountains each side, where if you shouted or screamed, it echoed for ages!

Then he took us up to Top Station, which was an hour from Munnar town and had some amazing views of tea plantations along the way, it was extra special as all the mountain mist had started rolling in over them so the views were so charismatic. We had to trek missions up steps to the view point where you could see the mountains of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Had loads of pictures taken again and unfort the views were marred slightly by all the mist but it was great all the same. Then we went and had some more local food in the evening at another 4 tabled place, where we had Masala Dosas (massive pancakes with coconut and curry sauces to dip in). Ate in the dark again because of the powercuts, and then had an early night!

The next day we just drove back to Kochi early, stopped off at an amazing viewpoint and arrived mid afternoon and checked in at our new homestay, which was amazing (we had a shared common area and everything) and it was closer to the beach/main area of town. We then spent the day organising our day trip to Alleppey with Jin and the guys for tomorrow, plus a night out on Saturday night, eating and chilling. And I left my Lonely Planet in the back of the taxi, but didn't realise until our last day in Kochi!

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