Saturday, November 14, 2009

India Day 8 – Part 1 Tea Plantation Munni

After yesterday’s wet descent into Munni the day was planned to start with a late-ish breakfast (7.30am) and then a stroll up to a Tea Factory.We were supposed to drop off our bags straight after breakfast though.

We were all dreading another wet day – and it was raining first thing -but I did take some pictures of the beautiful view from my Balcony. The tea trees seemed greener than on the previous misty day


The hills were laced with paths that the workers use to reach the part that needs picking. It looks as if they also have cottages for the workers. 


As I said it was still raining – here you can see the run-off from the hotel roof pouring down past my balcony.


Yes I took quite a few pictures to make up for lack of pictures from the day before because of the rain. Here is a wide-angle view of the tea workers huts below the hills.


Before breakfast there was also an opportunity to get a final Internet fix in the lobby. It was 100 rupee for an hour, about £1.40. Bob is on the left, Mary in the middle reading and Jim Skype-ing on the right.  You had to sit close to the step to get a signal though.


Before walking up to the Tea Factory I also sorted out my rear brakes. The last two descents in the rain had worn my rear brake blocks right down. Jim also had the same problem. Our bikes have efficient brakes – which means we could descend faster and stop safely – but the downside is that the brake blocks wore more quickly.  Mind you  Ben’s brakes were pretty ropy.

They could not get any new one so we took some from their spare rental bikes. They were not quite as good – but at least we could fit them and they would stop the bikes.  Hopefully the conditions for the rest of the trip would not be as bad.

Here are some of the bikes at the front of the hotel – just out of the rain.


Ben sitting waiting for the trip up to the tea factory. Avoiding having his picture taken – I told him I would post it anyway.


It was a short stroll up the road to the Tea Factory.  This one was preserved as a museum and so used some of the older methods to process tea. Here is the furnace – apparently they imported and started growing Gum trees (Eucalyptus) as a green fuel for the Tea Factories.


The production line is on the left and the furnace on the right.


They also offered us some teat from the Plantation.  It turned out to be supplied from a machine and flavoured with cardamom, sugar and milk so I passed. Unlike many British people I only drink tea on its own.  The others thought it tasted ok though.


After picking the tea the leaves get rolled and then minced up.  The smell is rather like fresh mown grass.


We then had a talk about the various methods of producing tea including Green Tea. This Tea Plantation was originally owned by a British Person along with other Tea Plantations around. It was then consolidated under a British Company after the British left India a law was passed requiring all companies to have at least 66% Indian Ownership and so Tata took over.

The Owners provided Health Care and Housing for their workers and encouraged then to bring their families up to live on the plantation.  This tradition was carried on when Tata took majority ownership.  Later Tata exited the Tea Business and turned the Tea Company into a Co-Operative with the staff having majority ownership. Judging from the Tea Plantations the approach seems to have worked.

We also visited their museum with furniture and equipment from past times. Their patch-cord telephone system was in use until the 1990s.


On the way back to the hotel we passed some local ladies on their way up – the did not want to be photographed though. We also passed a land-crab on the road – I did not realise crabs could be found so far inland.


So after the sight-seeing it was time to set off – I was a little apprehensive about my brakes having changed the rear ones that morning. I would have been happier if the first real check  had not been whilst hurtling down a hill at 30mph/50Kph heading straight for a hairpin with a bus forcing me to the edge of the road!

Ben also need to apply some oil to try to coax some more life out of his bottom bracket. Whenever there is noise like that it frequently means that something is pretty worn out. At least it was unlikely to fail catastrophically – his brakes were more likely to do that… Just as he went to apply some oil he dropped the bottle down an open drain hole –wisely he decided not to put his arm in to fish it out – we have had inoculations to come to India – but no point in pushing your luck. We left that to the local support team – mind you they did not try it either.  I did have some expensive (for oil) synthetic oil – that was probably more up to the job of Ben’s creaking bottom bracket. When they charge me for the Rental bike I will give them my invoice for time and materials – I don’t come cheap on vacation!

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