Chronicle's of India: Munnar

My eyes flickered open.
Several palm trees passed by before I sat upright to look out of the window. I tried stretching my legs the best I could in the car.
Me and Ciaran were in Munnar, Kerala. Kerala, known as "God's own Country"

We had been picked up by our tour guide/driver from the airport for 5 days of Kerala.
I stared out of the window at the coconut trees, the shop signs adorned with its curly Malayalam writing and the flashes of people's faces.
We'd been in the car for 2 hours since we landed in Kochi and we were heading to Munnar. Known for its spice and tea plantations, I knew we were going to learn a lot of things.
The roads started winding as we ascended into the jungle like hills of Munnar.
Our Driver, Mohan, stopped by a local resturant to let us grab some food, before we continued our journey into the hills.
We decided to plan our first week in India with a travel agent to allow us to do something like tourists, before becoming explorers.
5 days in Kerala. We paid a lump some amount of £400 to cover our travel, hotel rooms and certain meals.
After almost 4 hours in the car we reached our Hotel. Spice country resort. As we checked in and downed some fresh juice, I realised that our hotel was built into the side of the huge hill/mountain.
The whole place was beautiful and picturesque.
We made our way to our hotel room and did what any tired tourist would do...nap.

We began to stir and noted that we had to stop being lazy and get up. We had been advised by Mohan to go to the local Kathakali and Kalaripayattu show, which started at 6.
I was excited to see the Kathakali show. When I was younger, I was training in Bharatanatyam (Bur-the-na-tea-yum), a Indian classical dance originating from Tamil Nadu.
(Fun Fact: Shastriya Nritya - means Classic dance/performing arts. Shastriya derived from the sanskrit word shastra or "Science". Nritya translates as "Dance". Traditionally Indian performing arts, dance, drama and music were studied as a type of science...I'll explain this more soon) 
The south Indian dance style was know for its bent legs stance, body movements, footwork and the ability to story tell with the use of hand gestures (Mudras) and facial expressions (Abhinaya).
(Fun Fact: Classic India dance was exclusive in Hindu temples, as it was used to tell stories of the gods, and was banned by the colonial British Government in 1910, which the Tamils protested and then expanded outside of temples in the 20th century)
Now, India has a lot of classic dances according to its regions and there are a few to list! But Kathakali was the interesting one, as you'd have to complete your dance training and be blessed by your guru to wear the Kathakali costume and make-up.
It was also solely know its grand theatrical make-up, costume and focus on the exaggerated facial expressions. So yeah, I was excited.
I'd heard of Kalari before and knew it was what Karate was derived from.
We woke up, got dressed in excitement and grabbed the camera.
It was 200 rupees per show, per person. We spent 800 rupees in total, which is roughly, £8 (100 rupees =£1, roughly).
There were other tourists there and it was a walk able distance away from our hotel.

The first show was Kathakali. Before the the show could start there was a women telling us about what story they would perform today. Her voice was monotone and hard to hear, like she had the microphone too close to her mouth. I spotted her sat to the side of the stage, voicing it over. As the dancer stepped out, I think we were all spellbound straight away. Each expression and hand gestures was described as it was preformed. Then the story started. It was beautiul and the music was simple, yet beautiful. Each drum beat was mimiced by the dancers footwork.
Their makeup grand and heavy. I could only imagine how hot they may have felt under it all.
We could then go closer to get a picture taken with them and were asked to give a donation.
We all filed out, while they set up for the next show. Kalaripayattu. 

Kalari is type of martial arts formed in Kerala. It was used in battlefields and is said to closely relate to yoga postures and moves. Kalari is about devotion, obedience, technique, skill, stamina and strength. Kalari was taken from India by Bodhidharma, who was the third son of a South Indian king. Bodhidharma became a Buddhist monk and travelled around Asia, going to China and taught the shaolin monks, kalari, which then became Shaolin Kungfu.

This was mind blowing, some of the skills these fighters showed was strong yet beautiful. They used classic weaponry such as swords and shields. The technique was precise and by watching them, you realised that even if they slipped up just a little bit, they would be severely injured.

In the morning we woke up early and grabbed breakfast in the hotel to keep us going for the day. Mohan was waiting outside to pick us up. We bundled into the car and began our drive to Eravikulam national park. We were told the national park was home to the Nilgiri goat and the blue flower Neelakurinji, that blooms every 12 years, then dies. Dramatic.
We reached the national park through the winding roads. The sun was out and bright, but it wasn't overly hot or humid. We reached the ticket counter and noticed the price. For a Indian national it cost 90 rupees, however for a "Foreigner" it was 500 rupees. Then you had the camera charges...which was 360 rupees. We queued up in the "Foreigner" queue, which was short in comparison to the "Indian Nationals" queue. We clambered on to the bus and started our journey upwards towards the national park. As we wound through the roads, we took in the rolling hills and tea plantations dotted around. I also became aware of how close the bus was to the edge of the road. So while I tried to enjoy the view and not shit my self, thinking of all the Final Destinations movie, I snapped away with my camera. It was as if the Sony camera gods looked down on me and smiled, a Niligiri goat was posing literally next to my window, looking out the rolling hills. The bus driver stopped and allowed the tourists to click away at the goat. I'm not gonna lie...It was a pretty special looking goat.

We reached the top and explored till we got the top. We enjoyed the view and took in the vast beauty of Kerala. The different plants were labelled and explained as we walked up.

We walked back down, grabbed a coffee and cake from a small vendors and waited for a bus to take us back down.

Quickly locating Mohan in the car park, we set off to our next destinations: The Botanical garden and Tea museum.


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