The Cold Mountain Air of Kumily

Local women at work picking tea leaves
Local women at work picking tea leaves

After sweating our way through Cochin, Carrie and I got on a relaxing seven hour long local bus up into the mountains of Kerala to head to the second hill station of our trip (the first was Matheran). Even though it was bumpy and stopped a lot, we had great seats, the bus never got crowded, the air was getting progressively cooler and the views were spectacular. When we finally arrived we were shocked to see that Kumily was much larger than anticipated and even had eight story hotels.

After finding a much smaller hotel, we spent our time in Kumily relaxing, enjoying the climate and taking a pair of tours.

The machines inside a tea factory
The machines inside a tea factory

The first was a trip to a tea factory but since it was the afternoon the day’s work was completed and the machines were off: a fact the guy we booked the tour from neglected to mention. With no other choice, we used our imaginations as our guide walked us through the factory and described the process by showing us rooms of dormant machines.

I won’t list the whole process here, but the most interesting fact I learned was that all tea, no matter the flavor and strength, comes from the same plant. The different qualities are determined by the size of the leaves after being dried and sorted and the best stuff is immediately packaged and sent abroad (mostly to Britain). Flavor is added later from the extracts of other plants and spices. Also, all tea leaves come from only the top part of the plant and are harvested every 10 days during the season.

The steep hill I almost wiped out on offered no problems for the local in flip flops
The steep hill I almost wiped out on offered no problems for the local in flip flops

The next day we booked a trek through the Peryiar National Forest and, as luck would have it, we were the only two on the tour. For eight hours we had two guides and a third man with a gun to protect us from animals or poachers all to ourselves. They led us up steep mountains (I swear one part I climbed was at a 75 degree incline) and through dense roughage. We were fed a terrible breakfast and freshly cooked lunch and took many breaks to take in the views that went on for miles.

On the animal front we saw birds, bison, cows and horses. We were on the lookout for more exotic species but the closest we came were tiger footprints and fresh elephant and tiger dung teasing us that they had recently been in the area. All in all an amazing experience and, at $21 per person, an amazing deal.

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