Tuesday, November 10, 2009

India Day 5 Kodaikanal Rest Day – 0 Cycling 5Km walking

Today was a well needed rest day after the previous day's long climb. – it started out in a slightly surreal way. At some stage during the previous evening I got a strange phone call from an India gentleman – I was too tired to be able to understand his English – I though he said I left a 1000 rupees at the bar. On chatting with others in the group it turned to to be an offer of a therapeutic massage for some price or other. I hung up during the non-conversation.

The next morning after washing and dressing - hot water was available for two limited windows in the day, I got a knock at the door. This time an Indian gentleman seemed to be offering me tickets? We tried again – then he seemed to be offering me a check up – hum yes I had a couple of scrapes and bruises – but surely not. Then I twigged – he was asking for my teacups – except I had not ordered any tea from room service – don’t they keep track of who orders room service?

The next job was to get some laundry done – the hotel only accepted it from 7am to 9am and same day service was 50% extra. I did not get all my washing done – just in case they mislaid it or it was not done in time. I washed some myself as well, so if all else failed I would have some clean cycling gear. Apparently the washing is air dried, which is very nice, but the day was rainy and misty so how were they going to dry it?

Then I went looking for Ben. I wandered along the two corridors that most of the group were on calling out his name – nothing. I also knocked on the door where I thought he was – again no response. I had already checked with reception – as it was a group booking they did not know who was in which room. I checked with Anil (Indian organiser) – he was not sure. So in the end I rang the bell of the room I thought he might be in – a slightly irate Indian chap glared at me and I made a hasty retreat and went for breakfast without Ben.

For some strange reason I had a western breakfast of a fried egg and toast and jam. I normally have the local breakfast wherever I travel – it is normally better prepared. (There are some exceptions the Intercontinental Hotel in Seoul has an excellent range of different cuisines – all well prepared and tempting.) Whilst the breakfast was edible it was underwhelming.

Breakfast is a good time to compare notes, catch up on the highs and lows of the previous days ride and also on the hotel. The hotel we were staying in Koadaikanal International was not bad – but had seen better days. Some rooms had wooden laminate floors – which is quite acceptable – others had carpet that had seen better days and looked as if they had not been cleaned for ages. Other people also had random phone calls. Christine and Denise had also had a little furry visitor – a mouse.

The TV offered a variety of TV channels – but there were frequent power cuts which caused my TV to switch back on to Channel 1. The problem was that Channel 1 was at a much higher volume than all the others.

I also found there was a smell of burning rubber in my room – hopefully coming from some fires burning in the village and not actually in the room. Eventually I tracked Ben down – he was in a different corridor entirely. As it was raining we decide not to go into town straight away and instead played table tennis. The hotel was at 2000m so this was our high-altitude training. Actually it was good fun – the table was outside but under a huge veranda. We think that the hotel is a popular spot for honeymooners. Presumably this is what they do! There was also a snooker table upstairs along with a chess board.

Jim spent the morning trying to ensure that Abby and Jean’s flight bookings had been properly sorted out. We take good communications for granted and it can be very frustrating when it does not work. The hotel had a private internet connection – but no fax and presumably the regular power cuts do not help. It was a real struggle for Jim – but eventually it was and a taxi booked to take Jean and Abbey to the airport at Kochin. Although the distance is not that far it was a six hour journey – the Taxi was small and apparently the seat belts had never been used and took ages to dig out from under the seats. Their luggage had to be strapped to the top.

The other strange thing about the hotel was the warnings about what not to do in the room:

  • No washing
  • No drying
  • No cooking
  • No valuables – mobile, jewels etc

At first I carried my laptop around – in the end I hid it amongst my dirty laundry.

We decided to visit the lake – we took a taxi up the hill, we had enough climbing the previous days. It cost 60 rupee around £1 so pretty reasonable for the short-ish journey up the hill. It was misty, the road narrow and busy with other cars and pedestrians, but our driver either did not have or did not know how to use his demister. Perhaps he was trying to save petrol – we should have paid him more perhaps.

I had imagined a beautiful lake in the Indian countryside - a bit like the lakes up in the English Lake District – it was actually more of a giant boating lake. (Wicksteed Park – Kettering England). We walked around it – 5Km / 3 miles – it rained and was misty but it was not too bad – it was good to get some fresh air. We were joined by three dogs out for a walk – they were out looking for food – but did not hassle us at all. They looked well cared for.

The lake was quite large – like the petals on a flower – here is one of the “petals” – you can see the mist in the trees – or maybe clouds.


There were some nice and large houses around the lake with large well-cared for gardens, I think these are Tobacco plants.


There were a number of places to hire boats – here is one boat shed – still misty.


Afterwards we headed back to down to find a taxi – this time it cost a 100 rupee – mind you I did not have any change so it would have cost that even if I had tried to negotiate a better deal. The car was bigger and our driver was quite chatty. He recommended we visit the Taj Mahal – a number 1 tourist attraction. We also found out that his father was a carpenter – a good job. He took us right up to the hotel though, so we did not have to walk up the muddy track.

Here are some photographs of the hotel – they seemed to have a strange set of “artworks” in the garden - I am going to borrow this bike for when we cycle down the mountain.


This is a picture of the back of the Hotel – it has two wings, a bandstand and various Gazebos. You can see the veranda behind the bandstand, where we played table tennis.


There was also a waterfall behind the hotel with a viewing bridge.


We met Jay in the lobby and decided to go for lunch in the Hotel Restaurant – I think that the Restaurant was the high spot of the Hotel. The Menu choice was good, they served Kingfisher beer and the waiters were attentive. We each chose a vegetarian dish and then shared them along with some rice and some beer. We had Black lentils, Moong dhall and Tarka Dhall it was delicious and one of them was quite spicy – the spiciest so far on the trip – although not at an English Madras level.

The menu had an International Section


One of the items on the International Menu under the Vegetarian Section was this – the Ultimate vegetarian delight – hum! This place must be after a Michelin star with such fine dining.

P1010157 - e

After lunch I planned to catch up on my blogs – but ended up having a little nap instead. Ben was planning on going for a walk – but also had a nap as well. That table tennis at high altitude must have been harder work than we thought. I did write one days post though.

In the evening a group of us met up to go up to a posher hotel at the top of the hill to sample their buffet at 400 rupee. We got a taxi up – 5 in a small car up a steep hill – swerving to avoid other traffic – glad the journey was not too long.

The Hotel was large and looked like a Canadian Lodge with an open fire in the middle of the lounge area. In fact it was so posh I had to wear long pants (trousers). Here we are in the Bar having a pre-dinner drink.

From left to right:

Graham, Barry, Ben, Me, Denise, Christine and Mary. The beer was cheaper than our somewhat less posh hotel as well. There was a TV in the bar showing a One-day cricket match between India and Australia so Graham kept going up to watch.


Here is the dining room: L2r: Barry, Ben, Graham – nice shirt!, a waiter, Bob (our leader) Christine, Denise and Mary.

There was a wide range of food with the large vegetarian choice centre stage and the smaller meet choice in the corner. They had panneer masala – my daughter who loves cheese curry would have enjoyed it.


After dinner we wandered down to an Internet cafe – but only Computers, so everyone could catch up. Graham stayed behind to watch the Cricket Match along with all the Indian hotel staff. Australia won by 3 runs in the end – fortunately for Graham they did not take it out on him and he left them a tip as a consolation prize. They did mislay his coat though – which he never did get back.

Ben and I shared a PC – me for email and blog stuff, Ben for Facebook Our 30 minute session cost around 20rupees – around 30p – not bad and the speed was ok. Of course they did not have any change so Bob paid for us – thanks Bob.

The sign above Ben was also duplicated on the other wall – but with the modification - “KEEP YOUR THINGS SAFER”


The internet cafe was on the 1st floor (if you are from the UK) or the 2nd floor if you are from the US – we were the next floor up from the ground. We saw a pack of around 20 dogs out for a roam – when they heard some distant barking they shot off in the direction of the noise – a doggy rumble perhaps. A dog with a severe limp followed behind the pack.

I also saw this unusual moth on the railings.


It was raining – but there were no taxis around so we started walking – we found a taxi but Ben and Bob decided to walk down – probably a good idea. I felt it was a bit unsafe hurtling down in the back – it had three seating areas. I was already planning on how to brace myself for when we rolled. It was not too far to the hotel though.

My laundry had not arrived when we got back to the Hotel, despite being 10.20pm. So I waited in the lobby – a good job as I had put the wrong room number down – after around 30 minutes it turned up and they wanted a cash payment – it could not be put on the room. The cost was 136 rupees (£2 – pretty cheap) but I only had 125 rupees. In the end they let me off the 11 rupees difference – karma for all the times I have had to pay more because of no change.

Tomorrow was to be a moderate day and because of my earlier nap I decided to sort out my packing. Constantly moving hotels makes it quite a challenge to hang on to all the bits and pieces and to ensure you have the right gear ready for the next days ride.

I did remember to bolt my door – it could be locked by the key, but you had to put the key into a slot to get any lights/electricity. So if there was a problem in the night on removing the key from the slot the lights would have gone out immediately – making it impossible to see the door’s keyhole – hence the bolt.

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