February 2007

Having some days to fill before the show, I took a bus up to Munnar, and another one out to Chinnar - a wildlife sanctuary on the border with Tamil Nadu.

This is quite remote and not very developed for tourists. Indeed, the park wardens seemed completely thrown by the idea of my planning to stay in the park, despite having made a telephone booking earlier.

I spent quite some time waiting with some extremely intelligent monkeys, who hassled passing vehicles for food when they waited at the park gate, until things were sorted out.

We'd seen a report on local television the previous night, while waiting for a piece on the Sopanam celebrations, about a local person injured by wild elephants moving through the area.

I nervously followed my guide, who only carried a small curved blade for clearing a path through the dense vegetation, across grassy hillocks and deep into the undergrowth in the failing light.

It was dark by the time we reached our stop - I couldn't see the stream and our tree-hut clearly.

The sound of the water and the flashing glow-worms which started to emerge were very beautiful.

A skyful of stars appeared after the last daylight faded - the moon did not rise until later that night.

In the morning I had a proper look at where we were staying, and the watering hole nearby.

The next day we did see signs of recent elephant activity in the area (yup, elephant poop had to figure somewhere!) but we didn't have any luck spotting them.

The beautiful rivers and scenery were more than adequate compensation though.
Perhaps coming across wild elephant on foot might have been more excitement than even I can handle!

I've been struck several times on this visit by how many aspects of India resonate with my experiences in Africa. Many birds and plants are similar, and the smells of the grasses and shrubs were tantalisingly familiar to the koppies around Johannesburg which I loved.

Some landscapes are also the same, once you see past the effects of higher rainfall and denser vegetation. Its not surprising, given the shared history and biological heritage, but I somehow hadn't expected the effects of unity before continental drift to be so obvious.

I returned to Adimali in time for the much awaited magic show. This was an entertaining spectacle, especially when several firecrackers went off by accident at the front of the stage!

some of the large crowd at the show

I had hoped to see some traditional Indian magic, but the repertoire was mainly tricks I'd seen elsewhere - although some were still intriguing. There was also an extra surprise for me, when I was recognised by Alby, a participant from our second workshop in Thodupuzha a few weeks earlier. The next morning I visited her lovely family, before leaving Adimali for the coast.

These massive cantilevered fishing nets in Cochin, back on the coast by Ernaukulum, are a clear sign of earlier trade with China - they were introduced by traders from the court of Kublai Khan. The container ship behind, loaded with freight marked Hanjin is a sign of resumed trading links.

I also saw a kathakali demonstration - revealing and intriguing in equal measure!
Arjuna below realises that the hunter he is fighting is Shiva: a useful lesson for his arrogance.

I finally boarded a train and left Kerala, heading north to Mumbai

(cute kitten spotted in Ernaukulum)