From there we drove to Yercaud, a pretty famous hill station. It was really pretty with gorgeous agroforestry systems but not much in the way of natural forest. The birds didn't mind tho: we got in at dusk, and the hotel upgraded up from a room to a suite with a patio overlooking the valley below. Next morning, Kekai was the first one out the door but soon came rushing back in, declaring that I had to come out and see something. It was a scarlet minivet. Wow. Pretty soon his (yellow) mate came to join him in the tree 15m from our faces. Then a blue nuthatch, several green birds, some russet, some brown, some.... it was a pretty amazing place to sit and watch birds. Unfortunately, there were also a ton of very hungry bonnet macaques. On the first day, Kekai pointed one out on our roof. He quickly jumped down, dashed into our room and came running back out with the bar of locally-made tulsi soap I'd just bought and took off for the trees before we could do anything about it. The second morning's bird watching was cut short by the arrival of a female who just wouldn't leave and acted like she might not mind having a bit of either Kekai or I. When we retreated (she had pretty impressive canines), she came for the tea I'd left on the table. It was too hot for her, but after it spilled another macaque came to lick up the sweet mess on the table and floor. Poor guys, they must've been really hungry, but not at all pleasant to be around.
Yercaud is a fairly popular hill station, and, as such, there are lots of tourist-things to do. We went to the sites: two different viewpoints, the Sevaroyan cave temple, and even boating on the lake (it was quite a cultural experience with a 30 minute wait in line to get tickets, then another wait for a boat, and finally a peddle around the lake with a bunch of others in motor, row, and peddle boats. We had a bit of a scary moment when the young bull who Tim and Kalani had just nonchalantly walked by decided he didn't like Kekai and put his head down and went for it. Luckily I saw him cock his head and I pulled Kekai aside quickly; we both just got brushed by the horns. Enough to leave red welts, but they had gone by the next morning. Kekai was wearing a red T-shirt, wonder if that had anything to do with it.
One interesting thing was that a group of nomadic blacksmiths (Gaduliya Lohar, I think) had set up camp on the road near the lake. They were forging agricultural tools (mostly axes, hoes, picks) from scrap metal (mostly used axles). A pretty big group of men had formed alongside the road, watching them work and we went over to see what was going on. One of the men seemed to be the master blacksmith and was in charge of shaping the tools while two women and a younger man were the muscle and did the heavy pounding with sledge hammers. The young kids were in charge of working the bellows (here most bellows are blown with a crank -- kinda interesting). The precision in which the 2-3 hammerers worked was amazing. A lot like watching mochi pounding, but with near-liquid steel instead of rice.
Oh yes, and we were there for Kalani's 12th birthday. They said they could bake us a cake (but we didn't feel like staying up that late) so we opted for caramel custard with a candle: