Travel

Tales from Munnar #II

Brutal honesty will more often than not set you on a path that is opposing to one taken by others. On this road, you will battle anonymous adversaries, and trolls that will fight you until their last breath, ready to martyr themselves for a notion they think to be right. It could be for a subject as complex as the ‘functionality of the Prime Minister of India’ or as whimsical as ‘Should I enrol in magic school at 30.’

Heavy thoughts for a Monday morning, right? Thoughts like these have been flitting around my little brain for a few days now, especially after a conversation with a senior citizen that enlightened and scared me. More so because it stemmed from a very basic emotion – whether you’ve liked a place you’ve visited. He is someone who loves Munnar and the ignorant me, happened to mention that all things said and done, it was a ‘nice place’. To say he ‘jumped down my throat’ would not be wrong. Never have I been at the receiving end of such a backlash for the lack of proper adjectives!

As I continue to ponder over these grave thoughts, here are some suggestions for when you head to Munnar.

Living in trees, driving to tea
On the second day of our stay in Munnar, after we checked out of a the lovely Clouds Land Home Stay, we drove up the winding roads to the Lockhart Tea Estate to understand how tea is processed.

A quick mention of Cloud Lands Home Stay, our accommodation for a night, is a must before we move on. Since it was the off peak season, we got to stay in the family suite that had two rooms and one of them had a bunk bed. Whoopee! A special mention to the owner Manu who cooked three meals for us – a mean noodles to snack on and traditional Malayalee spreads for dinner and breakfast. I recommend.

Going back to tea time, among the most prominent estates in Munnar, Lockhart offers a tea tour as do other estates. Grab a ticket (Rs 200/-) and join the group of around 15-20 as an employee takes you through the tea processing unit, explaining in great detail each step – right from the plucking of tea, the drying, sorting and packaging. You cannot help but be intrigued by the source of your daily cuppa. And that smell of fresh tea when you walk through the rooms is a delight to your senses. Clicking photographs inside the unit is unfortunately not allowed or I could have definitely shared some informative visuals with you. The tour ends at the company store where you can buy tea at reduced rates and can grab other tea accessories.

The highlight of the trip is the museum set up a in a small hall across the tea shop. Remya and I trudged into the museum expecting to see machines or more information related to tea. Imagine our surprise when we saw the predecessors of our modern day amenities like the telephone, refrigerator, gramophone, massive weighing scales and even footwear. Interesting, huh?

Note: Remember that list of suggestions one needs to remember when travelling with strangers? Some of those rules apply when on short guided tours too.

Spice up your trip
As popular for its spices as it is for the backwaters, Kerala is a treasure trove of plantations. Munnar is considered to be one of the gems that bagged Kerala the title of ‘Queen of Spices’. With more than 12 variety of spices cultivated here – the likes of garlic, ginger, vanilla, cardamom, clove, turmeric, black and white pepper, nutmeg – walking through a massive green space filled with trees and plants, touching the fruits and flowers that produce these spices is an educational experience. This is where you stock up on your raw spices and natural remedies to several ailments.

Note: Don’t believe everything the guide tells you. It’s part of his job to sell you products that are ‘beneficial’. Through the entire hour we were at the spice garden, our guide Joseph kept emphasising on the ‘need’ to improve our hair and skin quality. Nope, not needed!

Fit in Madupetty Dam & Echo Point
On the way to Echo Point, the Madupetty Dam and its lake are popular tourist spots in the city. Tourists flock to both these destinations mainly for photo ops – the massive water body cradled between the mountains and tea plantations are definitely a sight to behold. The local tourism body has made arrangements allowing tourists to ride boats until a certain point in the lake – so take your pick of a speed boat, pedal boat or row boat if you are up for some legwork and brisk exercise. I overheard a tourist guide tell his group that herds of elephants can often be seen at the lakeside, quenching their thirst or splashing about the water. How I wish I could have spotted Miss Julie’s brethren at these waters20180312_135839
Further up is the Echo Point, where Remya and I were too busy giggling at the antics of honeymooners and their photographers to be bothered to walk up to the said point and listen to the echoes. Take a break here. Settle down at one of the stalls and have some Maggi and chai before moving on.

If you’ve got more time on hand, some other places you could visit are…
Top Station one of the highest points on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road, it is ideal for trekking and presents a mesmerising view of the surrounding Western Ghats, Theni valley and Tamil Nadu.

Punarjani Village is an art and culture village that promotes Kalarippayattu and Kathakali through live performances.

Eravikulum National Park covers an area of 97 square km is said to be home to the Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered mountain goat. It is also home to various species of animals, birds and butterflies.

 

Photos: Remya Nair and Rapti Bhaumick

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