Friday, February 27, 2009

Rubber Plantation, And Now, Land of the Gods

After the kayak trip through the Kerala backwaters, I headed up into the hills with Rochi's parents to see what a rubber plantation is like. Though the word may bring images of vast land used for agriculture, the plantation is really just a few acres. The family lives near Pala, a small town near Kottayam, in a nice house with a garden. James, Rochi's father took me on a tour through the garden. He pointed out the pepper plant, a creeping vine. Its berries tasted nearly identical to the dried version we grind into our food at home, though with a fresher bite. They also had nutmeg plants, and vanilla, though not much, as the price has dropped catastrophically to a point where it's not even worth growing. I saw large, strange looking Jackfruit, which I later had the opportunity to try for the first time - It's quite good.

A short jeep drive away was the rubber plantation itself. Currently, they are "slaughtering," or clearing out a batch of old trees that are too old to produce latex, and are about to start tapping a young batch. A rubber tree takes eight years to be grown enough to be tapped, and then is viable for about 40 years. James had his worker press out a sheet of latex so I could see the process.

For lunch we ate a chicken curry from a chicken that I was about 10 seconds too late in asking to see being slaughtered. It's inspiring to eat food so close to its source, having eaten food shippped from far away to supermarkets for so long.

After two days of travel, one nearly sleepless night by bus to Bangalore, a decent night's sleep by train to Hospet, a short local bus brought me to Hampi, the epic UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was on this journey that I began to understand the backpacker scene here a bit. My upper bunk just happened to be across the metal screen from Frank, a Czech currently working in London, but here in India for a few months. Frank and I banded together to find our way to Hampi from the Hospet train station. In the process, we met four other travelers, and all ended up eating breakfast together in the Hampi Bazaar. We parted ways as I made my way to the guest house Madhu recommended me, but I've been seeing them around the village some.

The Goan Corner is a truly cool place. Run by Sharmila, a loud and friendly Indian lady, it's a great meeting point for travelers and climbers. The shady patio hosts a chilled out scene of travelers from all over the world, mostly Europe it seems, enjoying food, drinks, chess, card games and conversation. The guest house provides crash pads and shoes, and daily around sunrise and sunset, the climbers make the short walk through the paddy fields to the boulders strewn about the landscape.

Hampi is truly an unbelievable place. It simply cannot be explained by words so I'll stop soon. It seems as though some god took handfuls of 10 ton boulders and tossed them over a 30 kilometer area. Scattered through these rocks are 300 temples. A sunset view from the top of a boulder you just climbed might have the sillhouette of a monkey on the reddish orange granite, with the lights of a temple shining just beyond the rice paddies. I don't have pictures yet, but neither they nor my words will do this place justice. I'm staying here for at least a week, as it will be hard to leave the chill, quietly social vibe and excellent climbing.

Me, Jeep and rubber trees.

Tapped rubber tree.

Plantation scene.

Pressing a latex sheet.

James explains the machine.


Anonymous said...

Dude--talk about chill --I get chills from reading your post. Glad to know that you've made a happy transition from being with Madhu's family to being in the wayfarer "current". The few images I've seen of Hampi suggested it was unique and ultimately cool, I am thrilled to hear your take and know that we'll get some you boy!

Unknown said...

Ditto pretty much everything Dad said. Great description of the sights from the top of the boulders. Did you say "monkey?" You know how much I love them. Are there lots there? As usual, love the pix, most especially the pressing the latex one -- it's a winner. That guy is great looking and to see the fresh latex is so interesting. (And nice to see how good you look.)

Anonymous said...

Your dad passed along this link a couple weeks ago, to "brag" about what you're doing. He's got good reason. I've been reading your blog regularly and it's a great departure from the gloomy news I otherwise see everyday. Thanks for taking the time to chronicle your journey. I look forward to every post. J. Judge

Anonymous said...

Hi, Moose.
I love reading your blog. You're an excellent writer, and this is my first opportunity to get your p.o.v. in print. I love you, and I'm so glad you're growing and thriving in your new landscape. You are so adaptable. So impressive!
Be well,

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