Wildlife, martial arts and spices
03.12.2015 - 05.12.2015 24 °C
After six brilliant and jam-packed weeks, part two of my adventure here has begun this week as on Sunday we drove to Madurai airport to collect Mark! He was straight into the swing of the action as we were treated to some fire dancing and eating at Cardamom House!
Our first trip together was to Thekkady which is a town of around 17,500 inhabitants located in the hills of the Western Ghats just over the border in Kerala. Our first outing was to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary where we were greeted by a massive load of monkeys jumping around on buses and cars...I gave them a wide berth as I wanted to keep my face intact (maybe a bit melodramatic).
There was more melodrama as we boarded the boat that would take us round the artificial lake which is formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River (thanks Wikipedia). It was like a big game of musical chairs with no music as people were getting on and off the three boats that were moored at the jetty. Our tickets were checked by at least four guys and somehow people still managed to end up on the wrong boat with one being called back and people disembarking and reembarking. Finally we set off to see what the lake had to offer by the way of wildlife. Whilst the fauna was a little thin on the ground, we did see an impressive monitor lizard, egrets and cormorants on their nests, and the surrounding jungle backdrop was beautiful.
In the afternoon we had a mooch around some really lovely boutique shops with very beautiful statues, materials and jewellery, mostly from Kashmir. After this we relaxed at the homestay with a few beers on the balcony before heading out again this time to see a Kalaripayattu martial arts display and Kathakali "dance drama". The martial arts was an impressive combination of acrobatics, weaponry and fire displays. The show culminated in one of the guys jumping through a flaming hoop that was barely big enough for him to fit through! Here's a video of one of the acrobatic sections.
The Kathakali "dancing" was something I wasn't at all expecting with a very specific style of movement and dress. Traditionally the dancers are elaborately-dressed men, one of whom plays the part of a lady, and they perform various stories. The first half was a demonstration of the different emotions conveyed through a highly dramatised technique using extreme facial expressions, eye movements and delicate hand gestures. The music accompanying the dancing was quite basic with just drumming, small cymbals and some singing. It really drew on my emotions and I found myself mimicking the facial expressions of the dancers as I watched!
Before heading home the following day, we visited a spice plantation where we learnt about lots of different spices, plants and their respective ayurvedic properties. The ways in which some of the plants grow was surprising including figs which were sprouting from the base of the trunk and cardamom pods growing from root-like vines out of the ground. The whole five acres are completely self sufficient and eco friendly with nothing being wasted, the dung from the cows and goats was used to produce methane which is used as cooking gas and the water is recycled across the site. We tasted the nectar from the stamen of one banana plant and chickened out of walking across the elevated wire walk-way to the tree houses!
Overall the trip did Thekkady biscuit...! (Joke courtesy of Mark)