Date: January 7, 2015

MAGICAL MISTY MUNNAR

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Munnar, famed for its tea plantations, has a surprising lack of tea tasting opportunities, but they put on a pretty good trek. We spent a day rambling up through the tea fields and down through spice farms with an eclectic mix of travellers, including the lovely Rosie from our girl gang in Hampi.

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The trekking crew.

We started in the early morning when mist was still hugging the ground. It soon cleared up and revealed beautiful views of pristine plantations. At mid morning we reached the peak of the journey and stopped for boiled eggs and bread. Yum! By the time we’d finished our grub we were engulfed in dense clouds, which made for some cool pics.

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Those tiny white dots in the middle are tea pickers.

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Before.

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After.

The way down was a bit treacherous as it was slippy and difficult to see the ground, consequently there were a few trips but none more spectacular than the young French women doing a sliding tackle on an older British guy and taking him out. He didn’t see the funny side.

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The beginning of the end.

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Magical floating poisonous caterpillar.

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SPIDER

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Taken shortly before the infamous British/French collision of 2014.

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The new Twinnings advert.

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Snacks and a rest at 1pm, still another 2.5 hours to go…

The trek ended back at our lovely cottage wedged into the side of a hill, where we were all rewarded with some more food and time to discuss our scrapes and swollen knees.

Also staying at the cottage was a French women (not the faller-overer) with her Rajasthani boyfriend. The guy was a serious dope smoker and had lots of cool stories which were pumped full of hilarious exaggeration and drama. The French women, who was much more low key had to rein him in on occasion.

Overall Munnar was a really cool place to chill out, catch up with new friends and make even newer ones. Its definitely worth sticking on the list.

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The view from our balcony.

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The view from our balcony.

KERALA: LIFE ON THE BACKWATERS

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Everyone goes on and on about how diverse India is. It wasn’t until we arrived in Kerala that I began to understand quite how stunningly different this enormous crazy country really is.

Southern India is: men in sarongs; spicy and sour food; fish, fried or curried with everything; palm trees; big houses; less bread and bigger rice; very Christian with enormous churches and shrines; and less crowded and well, pungent.

We spent a few days in Fort Kochi wandering along the waterfront, trying to work out how the hell the massive chinese fishing nets worked, watching a traditional Kathakali dance and going for a fancy meal with friends from home, Tram-Anh and Brendan.

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Chinese Fishing Nets

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Spice shop

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Camels and a church

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Kathakali dance performers putting on a bit of slap.

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Super posh dinner with Tram-Anh and Brendan.

Then came the thing I had been waiting for: cruising around the Keralan backwaters on a houseboat. This was very kindly funded by my sister, Katie, and we spent two very blissful days gliding past the palm trees and rice fields. We had a captain and our very own chef who made us the most amazing meals, including the now favourite, beetroot curry.

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On the first evening we went a little ‘off piste’ and stopped off to visit the chef’s village. As the light was fading we walked about 20 minutes away from the river to arrive as a surprise for his family. It was certainly a surprise – for us and for them – the whole village turned out to have a look at us. We were made to sit like royalty on the only two seats in the house as about 30 women and children looked on with shyness that soon gave way to giggling. We later found out that most of them had never seen white people before.

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The chef with his mother, sister and her two children (the little one was only one week old).

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We spent two days pootling along in our little houseboat and, despite the captain loosing his way a few times and almost crashing into overhead cables, I don’t think I have ever been so relaxed. Though it’s quiet, life along the river banks is colourful and incredible: washing, swimming, fishing, it all goes on in the dark green waters. Eagles soared above us and the green of the trees and rice fields bounced off the bright sunlight. We even saw some men in boats herding ducks.

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Duck herding

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These two were adorable. They kept calling me Auntie.

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Our floating palace.

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Fish thali: (L-R clockwise from rear) raitha; pickle; salad of coconut, spices and cabbage; pineapple curry; spicy green beans; fried fish; rice with dal on top; and papads.

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Captain (middle) and Chef (right)

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Our thrones.

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Relaxation levels reach new highs.

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Ever wondered what a boat full of nuns looks like? Here you go.

Our Keralan experience continued at a homestay north of Kochi on an island in the backwaters. We stayed with Benny and his gorgeous family and ate delicious home-cooked meals with them, they took us out on their boat to see their prawn farm, showed us how the chinese fishing nets work and even drove us into Kochin town so that Angela could meet Benny’s friend who is also a lawyer.

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Benny, his wife and their little girl, Carol (named after Christmas carol since she was born in December).

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They made us wear hats…

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Prawn farm

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The view from our balcony.

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Fishing with the chinese fishing nets.

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Sorting the prawns from the tiny fish.

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Our catch.