Saturday, November 14, 2009

India Day 10 Part 1 Thekkady Spice Tour

The original plan had been to visit a Spice “Garden” the day before – but that was postponed because of the rain. This is the hotel – Michael’s Inn - pretty reasonable. As a result we had breakfast in “normal” clothes and I had a fresh cooked omelette – which was delicious. I still had problems with damp clothes from having had to wash cycling gear the night before.


The support team trying to sort Ben’s gears out from the day before.. Raj who owns the Indian operation is on the left. They seemed to be re-stringing the front gear cable.


We all then hopped onto our mini-bus for a short trip to the Spice Garden, which also happened to offer Elephant rides as well. They had three elephants – here is one after having had a wash and scrub.


Several of the group signed up for the elephant ride after our Spice tour. Here is our guide. It was quite interesting, I have had a tour of a tropical garden before - however there is always something new to learn. The area we were walking around was owned by four families and in the main the spices were used for local consumption. However the area is renowned for its spices and quite a few shops on the hotel street sold all sorts of spices. Mary and Barry acquired a rucksack full and have been planning recipes based around them.

Because of the ties between England and India we can buy the spices in Cambridge (Mill Road) and actually see them everyday in our pantry. It always amazes me, when I go to the US, how difficult it is to find an Indian Restaurant.

This “garden” had vanilla, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric pineapple, tapioca, ginger, nutmeg/mace, cocoa, all spice and frog, and I am sure I have left some out. The smells were so much fresher when freshly picked. I have always imagined cinnamon trees to be thin saplings – their cinnamon tree looked like an old horse chestnut and the bark looked the same – except it had a lovely fresh cinnamon smell.

We were also plagued by mosquitoes – and none us had got any repellent. Our guide supplied some cream which smelled quite nice, but the nicer the smell the less the effectiveness in my experience and we kept having to put more cream on. He could tell as his audience stopped paying attention to him and started jigging around to scare off the mosquitoes.


We also saw a frog/toad in the sand – well camouflaged.


Here are some pepper fruits – they taste really nice when fresh from the tree – they have a fruitier taste than pepper normally does.


A biologist busy studying plant life.


He is studying a jackfruit – you are not supposed to drink water before eating it otherwise you get a stomach ache. I have eaten jackfruit in Cambodia – but had no problems.


You can see where some of the local art takes it influence – the Jackfruit leaves have a remarkably geometric pattern.


Fruit from the nutmeg tree - which also provides the spice mace. Something I did not realise is that the anti-personnel spray called mace – is made from – yes mace. On the left you can see Mary’s notebook – so if you want to learn much more she is the person to ask.


The silhouette of a coconut tree caught my eye.


These pods look like something out of the film Alien – in fact they are cocoa pods. Up here in the highlands homemade chocolate is a popular item in the shops. Down on the plains where it is much hotter chocolate is a bit impractical – it would melt.


Here is a pineapple growing – you can just see it peeping out. I had not realised that you only get one pineapple per bush. You have to plant new shoots for new bushes (and new pineapples).


The biologist is doing some more plant studying,


After the tour we had to wait for those that wanted an elephant ride so we strolled into town. This was not a tourist spot like the area around our Hotel – handmade bricks anyone?


Or perhaps some cement?


Or perhaps a banana – a staple part of many cyclists’ diet and perhaps also Indian people.


We stopped at a sweet shop and Ben bought some local handmade fruit and nut chocolate – it was very tasty.


Afterwards we popped into a local “coffee” shop and had some local coffee. Foreigners would normally get instant. Bob and I had a coffee and Ben a large bag of crisps/chips – the cost – 20 rupee – 30p in English money. I had to ask twice as I thought I had misheard the shopkeeper when he told me. The only problem is that the default for coffee in India is milky and sweet – so it was not as nice as I had hoped. Whenever I ask for black coffee I always get asked twice as it is a strange way to drink it in India.

This fruit shop wins the prize for best presentation on the street.


Walking back up the path to the Spice Garden/Elephant ride car park this aggressive crab came out to greet us.


When we got back to the hotel Ben tried out his bike to see if they had fixed it – he could still not shift the front gears. So I got some of my special oil and worked it into the changer mechanism and we managed to get the gears to change – although slowly. At least he would not had to try to muscle up hills in the big ring again. We also oiled the bottom bracket again.


We then changed into our cycling gear which for Ben and me was damp and then had lunch at the Hotel Many of us chose the Cheese Toast Masala – but there must have been a different chef as it was not as nice as the previous day – not enough cheese and too much onion.

Whilst we were waiting for our lunch orders the monkeys came out to play. Here is one acting as look out on top of a nearby roof.


They ran around the hotel car park so we made sure we had not left anything detachable on the bikes- this one is enjoying a papaya sitting in a tree.


Unfortunately all the delay had meant that the rain caught up with us. It really started pouring down. When you are wearing damp cycling gear it is pretty difficult to go out into pouring rain. So we waited for a lull in the rain.

No comments:

Post a Comment