Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spice Village and a Massage

Spice plantation worker

 “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

It was a long drive to  Periyar (Thekkady) a natural wildlife sanctuary with ever-improving scenery along the way. We passed fields of tropical fruit, nuts, vegetables, tea plantations and trees with cotton hanging all over them, cleverly called cotton trees. We saw families washing laundry on the river rocks - Manoj told us he often loses his buttons at the laundry - broken on the rocks.

River washed laundry spread to dry

All kinds of vehicles heave and moan, chug and putter their way along the winding road up.
The boniest animal I've ever seen. The driver was sleeping...just rocking along.
Manoj drove with great patience and skill even though his leg was killing him and he couldn't honk the horn nearly as much as he'd like. Drivers are advised to honk the least amount possible, for the tourists sake which is almost impossible for an Indian driver, anywhere, never mind on a slow, winding road. En route, Zouzou and Debra consented to having a massage; if they had one, then Manoj would get one free and he needed some relief for his leg.


The Spice Village resort was very well appointed with, as usual in India, a wonderful staff.


Our room was attractive and the restaurant/ grounds were in excellent condition. An ecological model resort, the waste water is treated in the resort’s own plant, where kitchen waste is also converted for use as biofuel, biogas and compost in its extensive organic gardens. The swimming pool is sanitized without use of chlorine. Water is solar heated. Only natural cleaners are used. No chemical pesticides or herbicides. The place is crawling with monkeys. All natural monkeys.

After checking in, Manoj took us to one of the many spice plantations, I think he said there were more than sixty, for a tour where we had an enthusiastic young guide - very westernized with excellent English - American idioms. At last, we could revert to using our American cliches; he got everything we said.  Starting out LARGE, he took us to see their two elephants, grazing on the ton of vegetation they eat every day.

You can't minimize the value of the elephant poop. It's a big deal, in every way. For the spice plantation, it pencils out to be a decent business investment - the cost of the feed for the elephants versus the high quality and quantity of poop plus the charge for rides on the beast's back not to mention the WOW value of the male elephant's considerable endowment (on the wane side of Wow in this photo), which is cheerfully pointed out to everyone along with a big whoop of laughter. Oh so corny and touristy, but we enjoyed it anyway. How many times will a prairie-grown Canadian hick like me get to enjoy such a moment with Richard's niece's French Syrian mother-in-law in the jungle in Southern India? So, it's corny...big deal. I'd do it again in a minute. We'll laugh about it for years.

Zouzou sent a photo of the elephant's equipment to many of the men on her email list. She wondered when she didn't hear anything back if she'd offended them. We reassured her they were probably simply speechless.

We saw cashew trees, coffee beans - the super-expensive kind recovered from monkey poop,     cardamom, cloves, vanilla orchids, allspice trees, pepper vines (black, white, and pink come from the same plant but undergo different processing), ginger and turmeric to name a few.

Enormous Jack fruit

Monkey poop coffee beans

A particularly beautiful double hibiscus

After a lunch (icky) at a local restaurant, Debra and Zouzou went off to their massage. They described the location as down a back alley and in an old dirty door. They were each led off by their individual masseuse and instructed to take off their clothes. They weren't given a towel or robe or anything for cover. The very old masseuse with one tooth, placed a kind of diaper around  Zouzou's nether parts after which she was flopped down on the bare table...no towels, no sheets. They were slathered with oil. Debra reported that every millimeter of their skin was covered, sparing nothing; they were kneaded and rubbed everywhere after which they were placed in a kind of steam box. Zouzou had an attack of claustrophobia because she couldn't figure out how to open the box from the inside. The masseuse  left the room and locked the door behind her.  Z screamed for help and the masseuse finally returned let her out. When they returned to the hotel they were each in the shower for quite a while scrubbing the oil off. They were exhausted from the experience but we laughed long and hard about it afterwards.

I think they had an Ayurvedic type massage. Nobody spoke any English so they had really no idea what was going on - the benefits of various moves, pressure points etc.  Makes for a very funny story.

That evening, we saw more beautiful classical Indian dance. 
Spice Village dancer

And the next morning, we packed up to head for Kerala and the houseboat. Too short a stay.

Zouzou and Richard


  1. OMG !!!!!!! This post was definitely a keeper...
    lots of poop and enormous jack fruit and enormous elephant you-know-what and naked massage and OMG!!!
    We sure haven't heard the end of this story yet and I won't mind if it goes on and on.

  2. Delightful snaps of Kerala. But being a Keralite, I believe you could have enjoyed it more if it were June or July. The drizzle and the cold makes Thekkadi more beautiful. Have a great time. :)

  3. Really interesting pics and stories. Can't wait to see the houseboat.

  4. Is this now and real time? I envy you two for your exciting travel schedule. I need a vacation bad.