Sunday, December 13, 2009

Munnar..

After the sheer beauty of Allepey, I thought anything that comes after would be a forgetful affair. And yet Munnar managed to hold her own...


God's Own country truly has Nature vying against itself. After the magical backwaters which demanded soulful silences and lulled you into a certain sense of Calm, Munnar's sprawling Tea estates did not cease to enchant..Never have I seen so many different shades of Green.
So what exactly is Green? (The artist has to ask)
Green is what green does (The philosopher replies)


We drove into Munnar a little past noon. Ravenous, we hiked around town on the lookout for small places where we could taste the local fare. Munnar is a small place. It was not hard to find this rare thing called consensus and we were quickly directed to hotel Guru Bhavan. :) We would visit this place several times over , in the next few days.


Munnar is green as far as the eye can see. For an average city dwelling person its a breath of fresh air. You can feel the chill air calming your senses and making light of your busy life back home while you totally relax and let the slow easy pace take you over.


The word 'Munnar' is derived from the words Munu which means three and aaru which means river. It lies in the confluence of three rivers Muthirappuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly.


We did not have any concrete plans on how we would spend our three day stay at Munnar. Our taxi driver gave us a few suggestions. But the real clincher were the names of locals who organize treks, which we got from the receptionist at the hotel.

A tour of the Tea Factory... Lessons in 'Tea'


Our day began with a visit to the Tata Tea estate, The Kanan Devan Plantations' as it is known. Though Munnar lies in the state of Kerala, the local population are fluent in Tamil. We had no problems understanding the chatter around the town. We were given a tour of the factory with explanation on the nuances of tea making. There so much more to tea than what meets the eye. We were walked through the various stages of processing , from the time the tea leaf is plucked to the end where packaged tea is sent to the customer. It ended with a small video recounting the history of Munnar and the Tata Plantations.
The capeted hillside..
We then drove around a bit. We just could not get enough of the carpeted hillside and the cool mountain air.
Matupetty Dam..
We then stopped at the Matupetty Dam which is about 13 kms away from Munnar and a major source of Hydroelectric power here. The dam adjoins a lake. The DTPC provides boating facilities around the dam, but we decided to skip it . The lake is lovely


Elephant Ride.. :)
Finally in want of some action, we took the 'Elephant Ride'. It was hilarious. I was scared. Sitting upfront was crazy. I could feel myself being thrown up and down as the elephant walked The pace was slow, but its extremely unnerving being seated on an animal of that size and strength. I had the most insane thoughts of the elephant running loose...
S had to calm me down.. Oh well it was fun!
Wild Elephants..
Wild elephants (seen during one of our many drives)..
A tour of the Tea Factory... Lessons in 'Tea'
Our final day took us into the heartland of Munnar. the DTDC office organises treks by putting you in touch with guides. Based on your preferences you can tailor the length and difficulty level of your trek which I thought was pretty cool. :) 
So we met out  guide John outside the DTDC office. He took us on a hort hike into the tea estates. On the way he explained much of the history of Munnar, On how people here have coexisted transcending religious and language barriers for sometime now, On how his Tamil was so good, About his Family,  About how he got into Hiking, What does being a guide involve, Which seasons are good, and on the effects of the vagaries of tourist numbers on his income.He cautioned us against hiring bikes (with an alarmed look on his face)
The Tea Estates..


Tipids
Along the way he pointed out to the local flora - 'Tipids', the lovely yellow blossoms of the hillside. We also saw the 'Morning Glory'  in spectacular bloom wearing the color of royalty - Violet. Munanr is home to the 'Kurunji' flowers which bloom only once in every 12 years.
Catching our Breathe..
We got to a point from where we could see the hills.  On our way we met a group of hikers (an Isreli and an american) and after some chit chat which co-traveller's normally indulge in when they cross paths (As in life) , we were off on our seperate ways. John mentioned some very interesting trails , like the one that can be taken from Munnar to Kodikannal and some very interesting anecdotes of his experiences as a guide in the wild. My favourite one was his encounter with a pack of jackals. 
 
Taking in the spectacular view of the Tea Estates..
Finally we got to walk through the Tea estates and chat with the lovely ladies plucking tea. I loved the poetry of their quick hands in motion , the deft fingers quickly and methodically putting the leaved into their bags.
I tried my hand at leaf picking.  Everyone wanted their picture taken :)... and it really was a pleasure catching everyone in action.
Hard at work..


I try my hand..


Pose for the camera..


A regular day on the Tea Estates


At the very end..


Catching up with John..




After lunch we visited  The Eravikulam national Park, the only known home of the endangered Nilgiri Thar. Nestled in the Western Ghats (in the Idukki district of Kerala) about 40% of the population of the Nilgiri Thar is estimated to be here. There are several mini buses which ferry people to and from the start of the park.


The Nilgri Thar..


The trail takes you through the park and is your chance to be amidst these shy creatures of the mountain. Its also an opportunity to see 'Aanimudi', the highest peak in the Western Ghats


Tomorrow we drive down to Cochin.  Its been a real pleasure getting to know Munnar. In any place its lovely getting to do the non commercial bits. The touristy bits always disappoint. But its the other stuff which really gave us a peek into this place called Munnar. And of all my Munnar memories walking through the lush verdant Tea Estates is right there on top. :)


M

3 comments:

  1. well written... the Nilagiri Thar is the state animal os Tamil Nadu.

    ReplyDelete
  2. lovely pics, all of them! i loved the one that has you picking tea leaves :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Abhi... :)
    And do try it if you ever visit :)..Its a fantastic experience

    ReplyDelete

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