Crossing back into Kerala by retracing our route was just as exciting and treacherous. We waved goodbye to Tamil Nadu and embraced the relative wealth of Periyar where, sadly, we were prevented from entering the National Park due to age restrictions. Were we too old or too young? It mattered not, we made good use of our time by visiting a demonstration of traditional, Indian martial arts, Kerali fighting, in a pit using weapons as well as arms and legs. Many a fit, young buck jumped about with grace and vigour to show us how to defend ourselves, or even beat the crap out of an opponent. Some of the chaps were even intent on jumping through hoops of fire for our amusement. Each to their own.
Having already seen the vast expanse of tea plantations that stretch across the South, we wondered what happened to the leaves after harvesting so made our way to a nearby tea factory. Here we saw the harvested tea leaves processed into the fine black powder that we recognised as ‘ black tea’ for brewing. It was so interesting that we went round the factory again, which was a mistake really as it was on this occasion that the small blond one was snatched from our sweaty grasp and taken off into the interior of the factory. A guide took off in hot pursuit to find said blonde kid being presented to the abductor’s mother, somewhere in the bowels of the tea processing plant. Phew! After that we needed a brew so we sampled the tea infused water which was not as we are used to but pleasant nonetheless. For us it was back on the road and for the workers, it was back to the fields for more leaves.
On route we stopped at Mr Abraham’s spice garden where the owner, a gardener of some repute, showed us around. Apparently Mr Abraham is best buddies with Monty Don (BBC – Around the World in 80 Gardens – India) so we listened intently and marvelled at his collection of naturally growing fruits, herbs, spices, traditional remedies and all manner of other flora and fauna. Well worth a stop just to sniff and taste things you would not ordinarily touch if you saw them growing in the wild.
In place of our day out in the National Park, we headed for an elephant sanctuary where we would hitch a ride, wash one of the beasts and generally muck about in, well the muck I suppose. In order to get us from one side of the hill to the other, we took to our live transport and hung on for a merry old plod through the bushes. Luckily they knew the way as we could not work out any system of steering .
With umbrellas strapped to the side in case of bad weather, we traversed the slopes and made our way to where some elephants were working. Elephants in these parts still work and they can even be seen on the streets walking to and from their work in the fields, in the forests and on the plains where some still run free and wild.
Although rife with abuse, we saw no evidence to suggest any mistreatment, neglect or physical abuse. These elephants were well cared for, protected and pretty much loved by their Mahouts. Most elephants are revered in India as part of the holy order of Hindu life however, not everyone is a Hindu!
For our evening delectation, we made for a local BBQ restaurant where we hoped to sample some good, honest, basic Indian cuisine. And that is exactly what we got. The catch however, was that we had to cook it ourselves. Now there’s a novelty!
With the owner and chef, his wife and their children all assisting our poor attempts at cooking, we splashed, dashed, and fried our way to a culinary extravaganza, enriched by local ingredients and a traditional way of preparation. In the family home we cobbled together our dinner for the evening and resolved to cook like this on our return home, but somehow knew it was never going to happen. With all good intention, we procured the recipe and instructions and that’s pretty much as far as it’s got – for now. Fancy it yourself? Well here you go:Beans curry [ Thoran] Beans – 500 gms Coconut oil – 3 tea spoon Mustard seed – 1 tea spoon Curry leaf – 1 0 grams
Onion Salt – I tea spoon Water – 20 ml
Fire 10 minutes Half coconut – cumin seed 5 gram Turmeric – 1 spoon,
Garlic 2-piece, Small onion 2 piece, Half Green Chilly All store pasting and mixing. Okra curry [Roast] Okra – 500 Coconut oil – 6 tea spoon Mustard seeds – 1 spoon Green chilly – 1 Curry leaf – 10 gms Onion – 2 Salt [ no water] Coconut slice piece cutting Fire 10 minutes Fish Curry Fish – 1 kg Coconut oil – 7 spoon Mustard seeds, Curry leaf Onion -2G0gnf Tomato — lOOgms Green chilly 10 grams Ginger & garlic paste 50 Coriander leaf all roasting 5 minutes + Fish masala fenugreek powder +. Red chilly+ Coriander powder + Turmeric+ tamarind 4 pieces Salt roasting 5 minutes water 500 ml Put the fish 20 minutes [spicy down 200 ml coco milk] BarBQue :. Chicken small piece cutting -1 kg
Red chilly,Chicken masala Coiander powder Turmeric powder Salt, ginger garlic paste
lemon , 1 egg mixing mixing manuated the chicken 6 hour and grill. Parotta White wheat flour -lkg
Water – 3 glasses Sugar – r spoon”‘””‘ Salt – 1 spoon Pineapple curry [Ananas curry] Pineapple – 500gms Coconut oil – 2 tea spoon Mustard seeds – 1 spoon Curry leaf’ – 5 gms — Sugar – 1 spoon
Salt water – ] 00 ml [coconut half-(-Turmeric powder + small piece garlic +Small onion 1 + Cumin seeds 5 gms All pasting 10 minutes Beef curry Beef 2K. -lkg Coconut oil
-7 spoon Mustard seeds
-20gms Curry leaf – 20 gms. Onion – 50 gms Tomato – 2 gms Ginger & garlic
-50 gms paste Coriander leaf 20 gms All roasting 10 minutes [Garam masala] – 20 gms, Red chilly – 1 piece Coriander – 1 tea spoon Turmeric -1 spoon Coconut slice piece cutting Salt 200 ml water put for the Cooks 20 minutes.
Yeah, just what we thought. It seemed so much easier when we were doing it under guidance and ingredients were handed to us to chuck in a pot and stir. This recipe, in its entirety, is what we cooked and ate that evening. It looks an awful lot like hard work on paper but it really was quick and easy and without doubt the finest tasting curry we’ve ever experienced. BTW, the spelling and grammar of the recipe is the original, so no apologies there.
Our stay in the hills was one of the highlights thus far although the next few days were said to be an experience to surpass all. We headed for the lakes, rivers, canals and even the ocean that surrounds Malabar, a further jaunt West down to sea-level.