Munnar was definitely on our list of touristy things to do! Tea and spices; the crisp cool of the lush, green hills shaping unrivalled scenery. Dr. Anne and I pencilled in a long, long weekend. With so many adventures on offer, we needed more than a couple days.
We left on a Friday, before the crack of dawn for me, my dutiful and reliable auto rickshaw driver arriving punctually at 5.30 am! We had decided to make our way to Munnar by bus, as per usual when travelling with Dr. Anne as my companion. Having learnt from my previous long distance travels, I limited my intake of coffee in the morning and had stocked up on snacks for the eight-hour journey. But this time the driver was equally in need of sustenance and a toilet break and we stopped at a roadside café where passengers enjoyed a delicious meal of dhal and parathas at Indian prices!!
We reached Munnar in the early evening, passing the still striking tea pickers taking up prime positions in the centre of the town. Too late to start exploring Munnar at that time, we found a local tourist shop and booked two days of sightseeing by taxi, with chauffeur. Even Dr. Anne agreed that local buses might not be the most efficient way to check out Munnar!
On Saturday our driver took us up, high into the Munnar hills, where the tea is growing and clearly one ‘not striking’ tea picker carved out a job posing with willing tourists. In no time, cars, motorbikes and people milling around caused an early morning traffic jam… Being the weekend, obviously Dr. Anne and I were not the only visitors admiring the beauty of this part of Kerala and we were guaranteed to have plenty of company throughout the day.
And in between being chauffeured, we lapped up all kinds of adventure:
We ate fresh passion fruit, sucking out the deliciously sweet seeds from its soft, spongy cocoon, overlooking the lake near Mattupettu Dam:
I agreed to another elephant ride, sitting astride the huge beast – they promised to find me a small one!! Luckily, it was only a five minute jolt in the jungle.. at the astronomical price of 400 rupees… but at least I could still walk at the end of it;
We listened to our echoes bouncing back from the surrounding hills at the aptly named Echo Point, where luxuriant green hills turn the lake into a cauldron of witches’ brew – just the bubbles are missing.
We learned to steer a pedal boat on Kundala Lake. Both Dr. Anne and I were experienced ‘pedallers’ but had on earlier trips left the steering to the men folk: husbands and sons who generally were deemed more capable. Not so any more. After spending some time enjoying going in circular motions, we got the boat under control and manoeuvred it expertly back to the starting point. And managed to take in the view as well!!
We positioned ourselves in between the greenery of the tea leaves, with no intention of picking a single one. We were not in the business of breaking the strike!!
We were charmed by the incredible display of exotic flora at the ‘Rose Garden’, before heading back to Munnar to indulge in a little shopping for spices to take home…
At a spice plantation, we spotted the ‘exotic’ spices and flavourings that add fragrance and heat to Indian curries, inevitably followed by a detour through the shop and some hard sell… but how many cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon, black peppercorns, mace and nutmeg will I need in the next few weeks?? We saw cocoa and figs, ready and ripe, and Arabica coffee beans.
We witnessed spectacular scenes over the hills, courtesy of moving clouds alternately hiding and revealing parts of the tea bush covered surroundings.
We drank sugary Indian tea delighting in the bluish hue of the distant Nilgiri mountains and glimpsed faraway views of waterfalls tumbling down the steep cliffs and hills.
And then we continued our adventures the next day: a day of trekking, waterfalls and elusive spectacular views stubbornly shrouded in thick mist…
Munnar is nestled in the hills at the convergence of three rivers,so no wonder that there are many dazzling waterfalls about… We viewed many, but also managed to have a dip in one, and as always, the company was excellent!!
And to complete our stay in Munnar, we were entertained by a martial arts display and obviously could not miss out on the photo opportunity…
We eventually headed back home on Monday, a trip that should have taken us about eight hours or less as this time we were going mostly downhill towards the coast. But having various possible routes available to us, we opted for a bus that would take us to Ernakulam where we could then board a train to Trivandum… Clearly any journey on Indian public transport was bound to add to the adventure, and so it did…. but this will be the subject of another post.