09.12.2010 31 °C
There’s a surprise around every corner in India, though it’s not always pleasant, but we’ve taken to the hills again and it has been a real eye-opener. We are up in the air, high in the Western Ghat mountains of Kerala, where the tops of lofty eucalyptus trees dissolve into the swirling mists and entire mountains momentarily appear and disappear in the passing clouds.
This green and pleasant land is watered by the warm moist winds of the Indian Ocean, and its fertile soil nourishes a wide range of tropical plants including bananas, coconuts, coffee and papayas. But the plant that is truly king at these heights is the tea.
Tea bushes roll across the steep undulating hillsides like a never-ending sculpted green carpet, and every turn in the road opens up yet another verdant vista. How many times can we say “Wow” as valley after valley and mountain after mountain turns our world green?
This garden of Eden, this green heaven, is touted as “God’s own country” by the Kerala Tourist Board, and up here in the mountains it is easy to see why. We are guests in the midst of a tiny community clinging to the mountainside and surrounded by tea estates. We wake to the sound of birdsong, the laughter of children, the bleating of goats and the morning calls of the villagers as they prepare for yet another day in the fields of tea.
These bushes can live for a hundred years and would grow into enormous trees without the tender new leaves being plucked every seven or eight days. But here’s a thought if you fancy a cuppa right now; this lovely lady and her tea-picking colleagues earn just three dollars a day, plus one cent a pound bonus. The work is arduous and repetitive, the terrain is steep and slippery, and the rains are frequent. So, as you sip your tea, spare a thought for these poor women who made it possible, and who may make as much as five dollars a day if they work really hard.