We came here last night in near pitch darkness, and this morning I see for the first time the world I've entered. I'm sitting at the porch of our rented bungalow, barefoot and cold but oblivious to any discomfort. I am staring at a wall of trees broken by a small pond so still it is a perfect mirror to the trees that circle it.
The trees are old. Gnarled bark snakes and reaches for the sky in brown, orange and mottled white, exploding in fireworks of green. Mushrooms have aged such that they appear misshapen extrusions of the wood that sustains them. Near the ground, creepers marry themselves to their chosen trees and bear leaves that seem to emerge from the bark itself. Munnar may be an overly commercialized hill station, but there's still something magical about this place.
We've been progressively experiencing better food throughout our journey, and today's breakfast is no exception. I happily wolf down four omelettes slathered in butter, and am delighted with the coffee. The percentage of milk is higher in this one than the others I have had so far, and it tells in the texture of the drink.
We opt for a touring cab for some sightseeing, and this turns out to be a mistake. We are led from place to place, and find ourselves unable to stop at will. While some of the viewpoints are scenic, Riyaz and I agree we've lost a days' worth of traveling to a regression into tourism.
We end our sightseeing for the day with back to back shows of Kathakali and Kalaripayattam. The Kathakali performance tells a short simple tale of Indra's son fighting a demoness enamored of him. I find myself quickly stymied, and learn that to appreciate Kathakali, one must first understand its complex language of gestures and expressions. I am impressed, however, with the makeup the artists use; they apply it themselves, and we see an artist transform himself from a mere human to a terrifying rakshashin on stage.
The Kalaripayattam show is fast and furious. We see lithe fighters with lissom frames perform acrobatics that send gasps through the crowd. Even though it is apparent that the artists are holding back, sparks fly when steel clashes against steel, and their collective fury forms goosebumps on my skin.
Both shows are however undone by some of the worst anchor performances I have ever seen. A horrible attempt at an Western accent renders the anchor's monologue all but incomprehensible, and we are left to rely on the shows themselves for any understanding.
We resolve to have dinner back at our bed and breakfast. The star of today's show is the polichatteru, fish fried in a delectable blend of ginger, garlic, tamarind and small 'sambhar' onions. It comes to us wrapped in cardamom leaves, which we learn are used in the place of banana ones. We mop the wrapping clean with our fingers.
Tomorrow's the last day of the year, and we're told there will be a celebration with a campfire and fireworks. We hit the sack looking forward to a better day.