Tag Archives: Munnar

Exploring all that Munnar has to offer.

sunday munnar

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!

striking women

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.

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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:

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mattaputa 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;

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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.

echo point

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!!

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boat lake

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!!

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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…

passion flower

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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.

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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.

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munnar flower

And then we continued our adventures the next day: a day of trekking, waterfalls and elusive spectacular views stubbornly shrouded in thick mist…

misty munnar

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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!!

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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…

martial arts

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.

There’s something brewing in the hills of India, and it isn’t tea.

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Lush green tea leaves, waiting to be picked, but no one picking them...

Lush green tea leaves, waiting to be picked, but no one picking them…

For the best part of four weeks, tea leaf picking ground to a halt!!  The lush hills of the Western Ghats were brimming with greenery: bright green tea leaves bursting from their buds and begging to be picked.  But there was no one on the hills to do the picking.  Fed up with low wages and paltry living conditions, women put down their baskets and took to village and town squares and to plantation entrances to sit in protest and to demand a decent hike in their monthly pay packet. And after four or five rounds of talking, negotiations had reached stalemate with neither the women nor the plantation owners willing to budge from their positions, and then there was the added interference of a government out of its depth…

This was not the first such protest and probably won’t be the last, but this time the women tea pickers refused to be represented by the ‘official trade union’ consisting mainly of men.  Women were beginning to find their own voices, not wanting be sold out by the men who most likely would have been bought by the plantation owners anyway.  In a society that treats women as inferior in every aspect, apart from the areas of cooking, cleaning, child bearing and rearing and keeping silence, this led to tension between the women’s movement and the official trade union.  And on occasions the women were pelted with stones or attacked in the dark on their way home…  It had not gone unnoticed by the men that whilst the ranks of protesting women had swollen as time went on and they formed their own ‘union’, the numbers of participants subscribing to the agitation by the ‘official’ men-led union had not seen a similar increase…  And in the meantime, the prospect of a quick end to the dispute remained elusive as the plantation owners demanded an increase of productivity of nearly 50% for a meagre return of about 25 rupees (roughly 25p).  It was clear that the demands of the women would never be met entirely and the stalemate would only be resolved with compromise on both ends… Which is what happened last week as the strike was called off after an agreement was finally reached.

But it was encouraging to see that there are  women who are prepared to take the initiative and defy the order society has imposed on them far too long.  Women are just as capable as men and their views are just as valuable; they just have to learn to believe in themselves.  And it will take time and bravery, but those happenings in the tea hills are a sure sign that the tide is turning in India and women power will eventually come, whether men like it or not!!!

Striking women in Munnar.

Striking women in Munnar.