Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kerela in a Week: Munnar


Munnar, a hill-station, and yes the traditional tourist point was our next stop from Kochi. The 140 km long journey took us about 4.5 hrs including a quick lunch stop and on 2 en-route waterfalls. The drive was smooth as the roads are quite good- specially considering the battering from the rains. All along the way we noticed that the homes lining these roads were colorful and grand. Colors ranged from the usual crème and grey and red to the daring purple, bright pink and parrot green! Our driver told us that people in Kerela are very house proud- and spend much money on doing up their homes.



We knew we were reaching Munnar as the tea gardens approached and we were soon surrounded by acres of them on all sides. The air was cool and clouds made the area surreal. But, as we hit the town we wondered if we had made a mistake. Munnar core town is crowded and crammed- with shops, inns, massage centers and rows of cars and even more tourist buses. It noisy and packed and crazy. It was late evening as we reached-just in time to book our “Ayurveda massage” for the next day. We checked into our hotel- C7 (just outside town) and spent the remaining evening looking out of our balcony into the green hills and clouds as we sipped chai.

Munnar is your typical Indian hill station with the usual to do things- a flower garden, a museum, an echo point, a dam with a view and a national park. As we discussed our plans for the day we realized that it was going to be a very clichéd day. But so what? And why not enjoy it?

 On that note we headed out …first to the Tea Museum. The tea estates in Munnar began more than a century ago with a British firm. Rows and rows of bushes were planted, equipped hauled up and labor brought in from neighbouring states. A half an hour video tells us this and a lot more of the 3000 plus acres of tea estates in Munnar- first majorly owned by a British firm, then Tata’s and now the employee co-op. The Tea Museum is a small building run by local tea estate with old equipments and instruments used in the team manufacturing and offices. Post the Munnar history we went to the flower garden. It is essentially a small hillside along the road with rows and rows of flowers- some are exotic with equally exotic names- like Birds of Paradise.

Next we headed to the Muttupetty Dam and Echo Point- surrounded by lush green trees and lakes. Both are pretty and cool and we quite enjoyed strolling along and munching eats from roadside vendors- corn on cob, warm spicy cashews, baby carrots, spiced pineapple and of course- nariyal pani!

As we were going to the Rajamalai National Park, we saw a family of 3 wild elephants which had strayed and were busy eating the tall grass near the roads! It made our afternoon. The Rajamalai National Park is a short drive from Munnar and home to the natural habitat of the Nilgiri Tahr (an endangered mountain goat). We did not see any goats or any other animal for that matter, but the Park is beautiful. The Park buses took us up into the sanctuary area. The whole area is thick lush green vegetation surrounded by black mountains, awesome waterfalls and clouds. We loved being there and by the end it did not seem to matter that we were unable to spot any animals.


It was almost dark as we headed back to town for the Ayurvedic massage to Mantra- a certified center. I for one did not like it much. They pour lots of oil onto limbs and rub from shoulder to finger and back or foot to thigh until the time elapses. By the end, we both felt we could have skipped it. A couple of other people we met seemed to have a similar experience. So, I wondered how “certified” all these centers were? Maybe we chose the wrong one. On that note, we closed our Munnar chapter.


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