I should have done this earlier, but anyway, below please find a map of my trip. I’m down near the bottom now, heading eastward tomorrow.
Today was tea plantation exploration day, up and through the undulating green hills of tea bushes, taken in an Indian version of a Jeep over very uneven dirt roads. I also went to a tea processing plant, which was loads of fun with its countless gargantuan and jiggling machines to dry, separate, grade, etc., etc., the leaves, but I can’t prove any of that because photography inside is banned, trade secrets and all. I was able to photograph the women, some quite elderly, picking the tea, for which they are paid a pittance, in spite of the very hard work. As with the cashews, I’ll never view tea the same again. The visit also included a stop at a shop called Tea Tales, where various types of teas were sampled, and although you can get a sandwich there, you cannot buy any loose tea, nor can you order any hot tea with your lunch. Some sort of logic at work there.
Afterwards we visited Eravikulam National Park “which, with an area of 97 sq. km, is home to the largest population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr, an endemic species of ungulates and is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.” We saw about 15, who have sadly become acclimated to humans, probably because said humans are feeding the goats right under signs prohibiting doing so. We also saw big, bushy-tailed squirrels. There are reputedly elephants, tigers, and wild dogs in the park, but they kept to themselves. A large, beautiful monkey was spotted by my tour mates, but not by me.
As for another type of wildlife, I’ve got some kind of very loud but interesting sounding critter in my room. Unfortunately, I was not able to communicate this effectively (it was a rather farcical non-conversation with me trying to imitate the calls or chirps to the non-English-speaking hotel employee), so I guess I’ll be sharing my room tonight.
Here are some photos. Hope you enjoy them,