March 7th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
Tea-pickers

We walked into town + breakfasted on roti chanai in one of the Indian restaurants.  The breakfast at Bale’s is good but rather expensive – they take advantage of their local monopoly.  We then hitch-hiked out to the plantation of Boh(?) tea.  It was quite a way + took us 3 lifts, as well as some walking.  Started off with 3 young Japanese – they were playing Chinese versions of Western pop songs on their car stereo.  Then a short ride in the pick-up, + finally a very welcome trip in an empty school bus, snaking up into the hills via an impossibly tortuous road.  The public relations chap at the factory took us on a private tour – it didn’t take long because there wasn’t much to see, but it was interesting all the same.  It was good to discover that tea is just tea.  There are no additives, just a variety of drying processes under different conditions for different periods of time, + shredding it up as they go.  The most interesting part was watching the women pack it – apart from the tea-bags, it is all packed by hand.  The girl grabs a handful of tea + pours it into a cup of foil that she has just formed.  Then, a deft fold or 2, + she has a measured weight of tea.  She has so many packets to make in a day before she can go home.  At the end of our tour we were given a small packet of tea each as a memento.  I’d have preferred a cup of tea instead – or as well – but nonetheless appreciated the gesture.

We walked back down the hill.  This we didn’t mind at all, especially since it was such a beautiful day.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any pickers at work, but we did meet 4 of them coming up the hill, + they asked us, almost insisted, to take their picture.  We were happy to do it, equally happy to send them a copy, as they asked.

From the bottom of the hill, we headed off to take a back route to town.  It consisted of a road to the local hydro-power station, + then a steep but not very long climb up to the Falls – Robin’s falls – above them.  It was strenuous enough to build up a sweat, one which Val washed off with a dip in the river just below them.  She had been somewhat chagrined to discover another tourist up there, + one inclined to stay, judging by the book he was reading, but the cliff gave her enough cover, so she decided to go in anyway.

From the Falls on, the trail was a piece of cake, + we were soon back in Tanah Rata, where once again we indulged in a lemon drink – quite wonderful.  Spent a couple of hours in the afternoon reading – Tom had moved on but left us his Time magazine, stout fellow – then walked towards Brinchang.  I wanted to ring Mum to wish her Happy Birthday, + had been advised by the PO in town that the Merlin Hotel might oblige us.  That turned out to be not the case, unfortunately  – not policy – so that was that idea washed out.  I thought I’d try later from Bala’s – they’d let us do it there, but wanted to charge $5 over the cost of the call.  I’d thought it a bit steep, but now we didn’t have any choice.

We carried on into town + had a chicken murtabak for dinner – very nice – + then walked/hitched back.  Chatted in the evening with a couple of English girls just come down from Thailand.  It was good to hear them, for they weren’t the usual jaded + somewhat cynical travellers that one usually encounters, but actually had some freshness + enthusiasm.  Not that they whitewashed their experiences, but even the things that hadn’t gone quite as planned had been viewed with a sense of humour… + that means a lot.  Tried again to ring Mum, but there was no reply.  Ah well, it’ll have to wait until another day.

Another pleasant day, a mixture of sight-seeing, eating and talking. It was my mother’s birthday – hence the attempted phone-calls – but presumably she was enjoying herself somewhere.

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