Now up in the mountains between Auroville and Cochin – drinking in the cool clean quiet refreshing air. What a treat! Oh the air is so sweet and fresh here! We’re at 7,000 feet elevation and the change from hot, dusty, humid Auroville and Pondi is so welcomed. We are staying at the “Eco-Village Elephant Hotel” though were disappointed to learn this is the wrong time of year for many elephants (we had no luck) – but lots of monkeys, chorus of birds and frogs, beautiful flowers and trees.. The hotel is an organic farm and so we again had an abundance of fabulous veggies and fruits where we could eat everything. They proudly showed us how they produce coffee, pepper and various herbs.
We had a nice little hike to a falls – very low as there’s been little rainfall this year.
And then we hired a taxi to spend a delightful afternoon back up in the little town, meandering about. A sweet lake with old fashioned paddle boats, a stunning little walk at the top panoramic view– and an old Natural History museum at a beautiful Catholic missionary filled with taxidermy and relics from early 1900s when the French collected all the specimens. Once India became independent – they put a stop to any killing of animals. The guard was a charming, delightful priest who had lived in the Vatican as the Tamil translator for the Pope for many years. He loves Americans – I taped his effusive remarks so I can bring a smile to face whenever I need a lift and relisten!
By the end of our time we felt fully renewed, relaxed and refreshed – ready for the next adventures.
We hired a car and driver to take us through the beautiful tea plantation country down to Cochin and had a great day with stops at a family’s home where the owner of one of the largest spice farms showed us the samples of plants all around his house – tasting new fruits and spices like “masala leaf” that has the flavor of the 4 elements of garam masala – an egg fruit (didn’t care for it) – tree tomato (yum! Like a cross between passion fruit and pomegranate) – and many others. We saw how cardamom grows at the base of a tall grassy bush – and each seed has to be picked by hand. I finally got to see a cinnamon tree (very tall! Glad I discovered the panoramic option on my camera!). And at the end, the family welcomed us inside for cardamom coffee and fresh pineapple. Delight! Later we stopped at a Tea Factory to see how it is processed here. Then – winding our way down – a slight detour to avoid a strike which would have trapped us in the car… and into Cochin. Oy. It is so hot and HUMID here – but gorgeous and charming. Our hotel (called Delight Guest House), right in Fort Cochin, is truly a delight.