Left Kochi on Thursday morning, after one last meal at the Kashi Art Cafe. My very proper hotelkeepers at the Delight were somewhat at a loss when my motorcycle guide/driver Sunil arrived to pick me up on his 30-year old classic, turquoise Royal Enfield motorcycle with his long hair in a ponytail. After surviving the crossing through urban Kochi, we drove up past rubber-tapping plantations, and eventually spice gardens and cardamom fields in particular. Sunil is somewhat crazy but a good, careful driver. I graduated from my initial abject terror whilst clenching onto anything I good find to hold onto, to a controlled panic, and finally to feeling downright comfortable on the back of the motorcycle. After dropping off luggage at a hotel in the town of Munnar, we drove up toward "Top Station" past vast, insanely green fields of tea plantations where people work for an entire day to earn 100 rupees (~ $2.50) a day for picking 100 kilos of tea leaves. Wow. The scenery was similar to Scotland or Switzerland without snow or glaciers, gorgeous. Except with monkeys and elephants. On the way back the rain begain in earnest for the first time that day (we were very lucky before, this being monsoon season) and we really got soaked which wasn't fun. After a hot shower I tried my first ayurvedic massage, which was interesting but not particularly relaxing. Two sari-clad ladies smothered me in oil on a wooden table and proceeded to rub me down energetically, periodically putting my placement on the table in jeopardy given my super-oily status. It was pretty comical; even they had to laugh. Afterwards I was supposed to also get a "steam bath" which evidently involves placing you in a little wooden box with the top closed, guillotine-like, so that only your head is exposed. I was claustrophic after only a few seconds, so thank goodness the steamer wasn't working and I escaped. Then off to bed; not much to do at night in Munnar.
This morning Sunil and I decided to amicably part ways because the motorcycle would probably continue to wreak havoc on my back, and the road to Kumily/Thekkady was notoriously bad. So I took a long crazy bus ride with more beautiful scenery and pauses in nameless little Indian towns. People got off, they got on. This went on for a long while. Now I'm at a place called Chrissie's Place in Kumily and plan to visit Periyar tomorrow morning. For now, I'll enjoy the bats, monkeys and loud, mysterious and sundry jungle critters.