Kerala – Part Three – Thekkady

At the end of our magical stay at Spice Tree Munnar (post on it here), we kissed goodbye to the jaw-dropping views from our private terrace, had one last dip in our dreamy infinity pool and hopped back on the road in search of a tea factory.

 

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After winding our way through the mountains for about an hour, passing field after field of tea plantations…

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We found ourselves outside the Lockhart Tea Factory.

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A huge, rather dilapidated looking factory, employing over 600 workers each year and plucking up to 25,000 kilos of fresh tea leaves a day. At Lockhart they make what they call “orthodox tea” which is the lighter, quality, leaf tea which is mainly exported over seas, as opposed to “CTC tea” which uses the stems of the tea plants resulting in a stronger, blacker tea. In fact, Twinings English Breakfast tea comes from this very factory.

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We decided to join the next guided tour and so we killed some time in the beautiful grounds…

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Usually we would avoid a guided tour like the plague but this one turned out to be fantastic. I’ve never seen a more engaged audience, the whole process was fascinating. The guide talked us through the various stages, from the bags of freshly plucked leaves arriving from the fields…

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To the lengthy drying process and how the various stages differ for the three types of tea they produce – black tea, white tea and green tea.

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Unfortunately we couldn’t take any photos in the factory, they were incredibly strict about this. So much so that Mr Kelly almost got thrown out for just holding the camera. Given the one hundred year old machinery and “rustic” methods employed by the factory workers, I imagine the factory’s buyers are behind this “no photos” rule. It’s not exactly a clean and shiny factory that would meet the UK’s strict health and safety measures. The tour certainly made us think twice about buying a box of Twinings tea when we got home.

Having driven past rows and rows of these beautiful tea plants, we were both dying to get in the fields and take a closer look…

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We walked along the zig-zagging paths, soaking up the views and waving at the smiley workers.

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Then it was time to make our way to our next stop: Thekkady. Unfortunately it was another four hour drive and although we broke the journey up by getting out to watch a cattle auction…

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Admire the local inhabitants…

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And pick up fresh supplies…

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All of this driving was starting to get a bit too much. Over the week we must have spent over twenty hours in the car, which isn’t exactly our idea of a dream holiday. On reflection, I can see why people tend to spread it all out over a couple of weeks, rather than cramming it into seven nights like we did.

So we were relieved and in desperate need to stretch our legs when we arrived at our next hotel, Spice Village. Another rustic but very charming eco-resort…

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We settled in beside the pool, whilst monkeys played in the trees above us, showering us with peppercorns from time to time. We ordered a couple of chilled mango lassis and let the hours slip by.

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The first night we tried the “fancy restaurant” at the hotel, which was a total disaster. Avoid at all costs. Crazy high prices for the only bad meal we ate during our entire holiday. The next night we stuck with the basic restaurant which turned out to be wonderful.

We watched as the chef rustled up some chapatis, pressing the dough on to the side of a four hundred degree oven…

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For just a few seconds before pulling it out and placing the hot bread into baskets, ready for us to guzzle. Without a doubt, the best chapatis we have ever tasted.

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The next day we explored the local area. No visit to Kerala would be complete without a wander around one of the spice gardens…

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After we’d had our fill of bay leaves, cardamon seeds, vanilla pods, coffee beans, black pepper and chilli plants our driver said he wanted to take us to see the elephants. Given that we were on the edge of Periyar National Park, we thought he might know a secret spot where we could see the animals from the perimeters.

Sadly this wasn’t the case. Instead he took us to an elephant park. These gentle giants, with chains around their legs, were being loaded up with hordes of tourists and forced to perform for the camera.

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They dwarfed their tiny enclosure, which was no bigger than a tennis court. It was heartbreaking to see. Needless to say, we didn’t enter the park.

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Instead, we headed back to Spice Village for a late lunch on the shaded terrace.

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Warm popadoms with an assortment of homemade chutneys, served with an ice-cold Kingfisher for Mr Kelly…

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Creamy dahl…

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And a pile of freshly-baked roti…

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What Spice Village lacks in luxury, it definitely makes up for with the food.

In a carb-induced food coma, we checked out and got back on the road to head to our final stop – a traditional house boat on the backwaters of Kerala. The final instalment of our Kerala adventures to follow this Easter weekend…sign up on the right to receive email alerts each time I post.

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London-based foodie with a shopping addiction, a love for swanky interiors and an obsession with white sandy beaches.

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