Looks Like God

Just out of Munnar is the Eravikulam national park, which is home to half the world’s population of the Nilgiri Tahr – an endangered animal somewhere between an antelope and a mountain goat which has absolutely no fear of humans here and will happily wander across the path only stopping to pose for photos. I should explain the title of the post – that comes from a conversation Mum was having with the tour representative when booking our activities. This place was described as having (in a misinterpreted Indian accent) ‘very rare animal, looks like God (goat)’. It may not look quite as awe inspiring as that, but they do have very cute babies.

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(I was sleep deprived that day, this seemed funny at the time)

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Or next stop was a tea factory – this was set up by the British, then when India became independent was bought by the Tata company, a huge company with a finger in every paratha like hotels, cars and mobile phones. Sort of the Virgin of India. Now however Tata have sold it back to the workers, and over 70% of the shares are owned by the people living and working on the plantation. We had a mini talk and a tour of the factory floor to show us how the tea is produced and graded (basically, black tea = oxidised, green tea = not oxidised, not sure how they stop it oxidising, white tea = the teeny tippy tips of the very youngest leaves making the sort of extremely expensive exclusive tea that only posh gits can afford). The guide was telling us that Indians have no idea how to make proper tea and all the milk and sugar added destroys the health benefits so the only place to go for a proper tea is China or Japan. The reason we don’t traditionally drink much green tea is because back in the day the Chinese didn’t want to sell it to us – you need a lot less to make a cup of green tea so the merchants couldn’t make as much profit out of it!

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Our last stop on our way to the next hotel was an ayurvedic herb and spice garden where our very knowledgeable guide showed us what all the plants were and what they were used for.

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As well as the usual culinary plants like cardamon and coffee (and that’s pepper above), most of the plants are used as herbal medicine.

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This one is known as an insulin plant. Apparently it can completely cure diabetes after you’ve been taking it for a month or so… I’m not sure how completely I believe that.

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Along with all the useful plants in the garden, this one is, as far as I could tell, used solely for making fake blood.

I also learnt that there are two different kinds of turmeric. One is used as a cooking spice, the other can be used as an antiseptic and also, after being applied for fifteen days permanently removes body hair. I’m a little sceptical about that, but mum bought some to give it a try anyway. If she says it works I might cancel the rest of my trip so I can go back to Kerala.

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