Archives for the month of: April, 2013

We arrived in Dubai on the 10th April and Alan our pilot friend came home the next day. We walked and swam every day and visited a couple of malls which is all we really wanted to do. It was nice and relaxing as always and Alan’s house is very quiet and comfortable. We had a couple of nice meals with Alan and met his
lovely daughter Samantha who had not long before landed a good job with Kempinski hotels. She is the only Austrlian out of 400 staff at the hotel.
Alan kindly took us to the airport on the 15th April and we flew Qatar airlines and transfered at Doha.
After the super efficient and modern airport in Dubai, Doha was still using the archaic system of stairs and buses to get to and from the terminal. We had a good flight however and arrived to a sunny but cool London.
We had booked a shuttle from Heathrow to the Victory Services Club for 18pounds each which took us right to the door which was very handy.
The next day we took the tube to Clapham Junction and Fiona (Maurice’s niece) who had very kindly had kept and aired our winter woolies,coats,hats and gloves. Her two little boys Joe and Sam had grown quite considerably since we last saw them in November.
We had a lovely dinner with friends David and Gerry who we had met in India at the Ayurvedic Yoga Villa back in December and we went and had a cocktail in a small bar and then to a nice European type restaurant in Soho called “La Giaconda” which had an
Australian chef. Gerry kindly dropped us back to the Victory Services club close to Marble Arch.
The following day we avoided the crowds for Maggie Thatcher’s funeral and went on the train to Sydenham Hill to visit my mother’s old friend who is over 90 but very much on the ball.
We actually took the train to Sydenham and discovered that we had got on the wrong train line.
We needed Sydenham Hill station so had to then catch a bus and walk up a very steep hill to the nursing home. Everyone however was very helpful and pointed us in the right direction and the
woman bus driver even stopped and chatted to us before we alighted.
In the afternoon we went and found Lukey Williams who works for Graf the diamond merchants in Bond St which is like Fort Knox with two security guards one outside and one in a locked portico inside
the front door.
On Thursday night we caught the tube to Bermonsey and David picked us up and we went for a delicious “dosa” meal in Tooting and then to an old pub nearby for a drink.
On Thursday the 18th April we caught a taxi to Kings Cross station and then a train up to Hitchin to pick up “Van Mauriceson”. It was an exciting day. The staff there were wonderful and made us
very welcome. They invited us to stay for a couple of days while we kitted the van out and got used to it. One of the girls took us to Stevenage and we loaded up with the essentials – sheets, duvet,
pillows etc. We spent the rest of the day unpacking our bags (a good feeling) and finding spots for everything. The van is very compact (read small) but is very well designed and finished beautifully.
The next day we made a list of other things that we needed and bought some of the items from the shop at the caravan park and then went into Letchworth to get the remainder of goods that we decided we couldn’t do without.
After fitting everything in we still had a couple of storage units to which we can eventually add a few more food items.
We set off on the 20th April for Broxbourne to see Barry Canterford who used to work for Autoglym in the UK and was kind enough to let us use his address to send all the essential paperwork needed for the van and various caravan club publications.
We then went to our friends Ruth and Michael Williams who live in a lovely part of the Chilterns. We had wonderful weather on the Saturday with not a cloud in the sky and the next day was lovely too. It would have been perfect if it had been 10degrees warmer! We had a wonderful afternoon tea at the “Compleat Angler” in Marlow on the river. The following day was spent at Halfords and TK Max getting more things we had forgotten and wanted for the van and then we were back on the Tuesday to Hitchin to pick up our Satellite dish for the TV. We thought that we had by then covered most essential items and a few indulgent items like the whole hazelnut German chocolate from Aldi that I remembered from years ago!

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Our taxi driver arrived on time to take us the 3 hours back to Chennai. We got a little way down the road when he had a puncture so I took the opportunity and went into Baker Street to get us a couple of rolls for lunch.
By the time I got back to the car there was a bit of confusion and we were put in another car. Apparently the chap that first picked us up was not from the company to whom we paid our deposit but must have seen the bags waiting and decided he had a fare. He just happened to lob up at the time we were to depart.

We had a good flight on Spice Jet taking off early and it was only an hours flight from Chennai to Calicut where we landed early. We wondered when the pilot was going to put the wheels down as we saw quite a lot of runway before we did land and then we were thrown forward rather violently as he went to slow down. He raced across the tarmac and must have had an appointment because it was the quickest deplaning we had ever had. As soon as the aircraft stopped the door was opened and 30seconds later we left the plane. We also had our bags within minutes.
We had told the Yoga place that we were coming from Chennai and waited outside the domestic terminal and when no one showed up after about 20minutes I decided to walk down to the international arrivals and met our driver who had been waiting there!
It was a long 3 1/2 hour trip up to Udayagiri but the views were beautiful once we started climbing up into the mountains.

We were welcomed like long lost friends by the staff who remembered us from November.
There were only 3 other guests there at the time. One guy from Luxembourg who we guessed had worked with some kind of security force as he had been in remote parts of pakistan and
serbia just after the war and when I asked what work he did he changed the subject. There were also two women who lived in Austria who were Polish.
Least said about them the better especially as they continued to speak to each other in Polish even at the dinner table. One a real nut case who was a psychologist and had some strange views on life in general. We could however avoid them most of the time and they only wanted to speak Polish even when we were at the table.
We started our treatments the next day with massages and yoga twice a day and an hour’s walk twice a day. All the staff here are very caring and can’t do enough to make you feel welcome and comfortable.
The monkeys are occasional visitors to the villas but they are not agressive like the ones in Bali.
They just tear up and down the trees and in the coffee plantations surrounding the villas.
The many jackfruit on the trees are getting larger but won’t be
ripe for another couple of months. The staff told us that the elephants can smell them from up to 2kms away and they come and shake the tree until the jackfruit fall off. They then stand on them to break the tough outside skin and eat the fruit piece by piece.

The coffee trees when we arrived were all in flower and covered with fragrant white flowers.
The night Jasmine is also in flower and the white flowers of another tree smell faintly of vanilla.
Since we were here in November they have completed two extra villas now a total of seven and a new treatment room for massage etc. They have also finished a section of road with asphalt but
there is still quite a lot to do right up to the villas. It makes for a very bumpy ride.
The girls that do the massage were throwing rocks at a tree near us to try and get some mangoes which they succeeded in doing. They are not ripe here for another month but they eat them with salt while they are still hard.
In the evening three hours before dinner we are served either fresh coconut juice, papaya juice or fresh mango juice which is just delicious.
We don’t stay up late as we are fairly tired from an hour of walking down and up the mountain twice a day and an hour of yoga at 6.45am and 5pm. It is hot at this time of year here but it
does cool down a bit at night but no jumpers needed.

We read in the newspaper here that there is a bleak future for thousands of natives of Kerala and other Indian states who have been working (some for many years) in Saudi Arabia. A public outcry in Saudi has caused the government to change the laws regarding foreign workers. A business which previously had to employ one Saudi worker for each ten foreign workers now has to employ one Saudi for one foreign worker. The foreign workers earn less and have to work up to 15hours a day whereas the Saudis only have to work an 8hour day and are paid substantially more. Apparently a lot of Indians have already left with no other option as it would not be viable to operate some businesses. A Painting Contractor who has worked there for 9years has gone back to Kerala with perhaps no prospect of work there.
We went to an Easter mass to see what it was like here in Kerala on Saturday night. We were picked up at 10.15pm driven the 3 kilometres to the church and the mass went from 10.45pm to 1am. It was the latin rite so it was a very long mass but it was interesting to watch and experience even though it was in Malayalam
the local language. The priest welcomed the four of us at the beginning and end of the service which was very sweet of him. Afterwards we were given sweetened black tea to drink outside with the rest of the congregation. Our knees felt a bit worse for wear as we had to sit and kneel on a very coarse sisal mat and get up and down many times. The locals made plenty of space around us – I think they were afraid of being knocked over as we got up and down.

The 1st April (the day we started our adventure last year) brought a group of visitors from the Ayurveda villa to Udayagiri to see the property and to do a special dynamic yoga session which Maurice and I also attended. We then all had dinner together which was a nice change from just the two Polish women. The two Russians, two Indians who lived in England, a Latvian and a New Zealander were all very pleasant and we chatted for a couple of hours. They were then taken on a night safari to see if they could see elephant or tiger and then back to the Ayurveda villa.
The next day two new guests arrived – Karen from England and Stefanie from Boston. They were lovely and we could at last have some normal conversation. The two Polish women left the next day and we felt better because then the doctor and the manager told us that they were both crazy.
Maurice continued with his massages and treatments for arthritis control and me with weight control. We are both enjoying the yoga twice a day with a great yoga instructor Naveem.
We were told that a rogue elephant had killed a man down on the plain last week. He his wife, mother in law and neighbour were collecting firewood when they were attacked. The other three were
seriously injured. The elephant then proceeded to ram a small car but luckily the driver escaped unhurt. We were advised not to walk outside the property at night (not that we wanted to) as there have also been tiger sightings in the area. The property itself is cordoned off with flimsy shadecloth but apart from the odd monkey or lovely large squirrel who put on a wonderful performance
for us flying from tree to tree, we haven’t seen any other wildlife nearby.
Yesterday we went in the evening to a temple festival which was interesting. We did see a female elephant by the side of the road on the way there.
The festival went for 3days and you could hear the drums and music from the plain below very clearly. It went all night with a few breaks in between. There is a temple higher up the mountain and there was a long procession which took a couple of hours to reach the celebrations on the plain. We were also going to walk with them but thank goodness opted for the 4wd instead. Ajith the owner had flown in from Finland during the day and it was nice to see him and have a chat.
There were two men dressed as deities who danced around the temple and then sat and listened to the problems of the village people and gave them advice.
There were some stalls selling Indian sweets other stalls selling bangles and plastic toys. Most of the staff came with us and gave us explanations of what was going on. The locals paid us as much interest and we had a lot of small children who wanted to know our names and from where we came. One ten year old stuck to me all night and he spoke quite good English. I gave him one of those clip on koala bears with Australia written on it’s jacket. He didn’t want to take it at first but then decided to take it after all. Some of the adults just wanted to come up and shake our hands and also asked us for our “good names”. A lot of the English spoken by the Indians is quite old fashioned and quaint but then reading the paper they call the police “cops” which does
seem comical.
We are in an area here called Tholpetty and the owner of the neighbouring coffee and pepper plantation came to look at Udayagiri one night. You have to have permission to walk on his land so we asked if we could go for a walk the next morning to see his house and land.
He agreed so Karen and I went for our morning walk (Maurice had treatment)up the hill to the house. It had been built and owned by an Englishman who died around the 60’s and was buried
next to his dog on the property. Shamil’s wife’S family now owns the plantation but the house has remained and is reminiscent of an old colonial house with remnants of animal skulls with antlers on
the wall. We had a nice chat with Shamil who told us of the difficulty of running the plantation (he lives in Chennai normally)with a manager in charge and workers who in the main are illiterate and do not have bank accounts,spend all their money on alcohol and finish work early. Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the states that also have the greatest number of protests and strikes and he told us that he had been twice excluded from entering his own property.
His property will become a buffer zone for the local wildlife and for this he has to make a few changes like painting buildings green to blend in with the forest. He also plans to cut down the jackfruit trees on his land to stop the elephants from trampling his coffee trees.
I had to miss a day’s yoga sessions and I found I really missed them. We both feel so much more balanced (bodywise) and flexible. In the evening the rooster from across the road starts up
as soon as we commence yoga and the goats are let out to feed and they start bleating.
On the 6th April a couple we met Hamid and Rosmin from Birmingham and a New Zealand girl Lucy joined Karen and ourselves for our last few days
We enjoyed the company and we had a fire outside on our last night
which made for a nice atmosphere even though it was a bit warm for one. We had a lovely farewell from everyone on our last day and started our 3+hour trip down the mountain to Calicut where we spent the night before our flight to Dubai.

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