If Kerala is God’s own country, then Munnar must be the place where he sips his morning tea. Although we had been to tea estates in Ooty and Coonoor (and were pretty impressed by them), the photos and description of Munnar’s tea estates made it irresistible for us to skip it. So from Aluva, we packed our bags on bike and left for Munnar at 4:30am.
A very peculiar thing about Kerala is that you won’t realize when the city / town / village has ended or started. The whole state is like a mega urban area, with boundaries existing only in pin codes. As beautiful as this might be, it takes away the sense of moving forward, as you feel you haven’t left your first city. As a result, when we stopped for breakfast after 90 minutes of the ride, we still thought we were in Aluva.
It was a small shop on the highway and we had awesome breakfast there. I remember the place because of the smile the shopkeeper and his wife had on their face. Most of the time we see the smile on faces and eyes tell a different story but after a long time, I had seen the smile on face and happiness in their eyes. We couldn’t understand each other much, because of our language differences. But one thing that I have learned on this journey is that such barriers give birth to bridges that can communicate much more than words do. And you cherish these memories for the lifetime. We had our breakfast (bread omelet & tea) and were on road again towards the Munnar.
The road to Munnar was really good but we didn’t enjoy that much as the road has the limited view as compared to what we have been to in the past 3-4 weeks. The highway has a few waterfalls as well but as is the case with all waterfalls of western ghats, the current was feeble during this time of year. We kept on moving further. As we closed in, the landscape started changing and we were entering the tea estates zone. The stretches of tea estates visible from the highway were endless. It was green everywhere around us and blue sky above us. We kept on riding for few more kilometers and reached Munnar city but it was not what we were expecting. The city is small but highly commercialized. Everything was expensive and it was already very crowded, so we decided not to flow with current and returned to the outers of the city.
A few miles away from the city, we decided to eat at a small dhabha there for some time and plan what to explore in Munnar while nibbling on delicious Parathas & Curries being served there. We had managed to get a local map from one of the tour agents in the town which proved really helpful. I had to do some office work on that day, and as the day got hot & sunny day, we decided to take shelter at the nearby Rosegarden. So while I handled the clients over a call, Bhishma took to his all time all time favorite task of ‘Ghaas Cheelna’ (killing time while plunking grass).
It was around 2:30pm when my call got over and we decided to explore Laxmi tea estates (a big estate in the town) and then move towards top station. A few kilometers ride from the garden and we were in the middle of Laxmi tea states. We were going on the seemingly main road when Bhishma got excited seeing a dirt track (he has a thing for not taking roads). Without giving a second thought we decided to go on this route. As we were moving further on that route, it felt like we were not riding our bike but sailing it in the green ocean – the tea state was endless and we were lost somewhere in them.
We kept on exploring Laxmi estates for about an hour & could have done it for more but came out as we wanted to reach top station (which was 50km away) before dark.
There are three major roads from Munnar (to Kochi, Thekkady & Madurai) which make for most of the beautiful locations. The road to Thekkady didn’t impress us much and we took the road to Madurai. The top station was the last point on this road. The first tourist location was “Photo point”. Photo point is a tea estate, small but very well maintained, where a lot of tourists halt for a quick photo session. We didn’t find it interesting, so we kept on moving. Second tourist point of our way was Mattupatti Dam. This location offers good view, so we took a stop at this dam. We took a stop at this location for few minutes and started moving towards our destination.
On our way, the third tourist location was echo point. As we reached echo point we found people screaming and listening to their own screaming echo sound. It was already crowded so we decided to skip this destination and cover it next day early morning while returning from top station.
As we were moving towards the top station it was getting cold and the density of tea states also started increasing. On our route we found one location where we could not resist ourself from stopping. The infinite stretch of tea garden (these were the best tea estates in Munnar without a doubt) with sun rays penetrating from the clouds and showing sunlight on green leaves of tea. We took a stop at this location and even thought of camping at this location. But since these tea states are private property, we ditched this thought and continued climbing.
At 5:30pm we parked our bike in the parking of top station. We bought our tickets and went towards the top station point for checking out the place and also looking for a camping location. It has a narrow passage that leads you to the main viewing area, and the moment we stepped out of the passage, we knew this is the location for camping which we can’t miss.
We were above clouds and there were peaks floating on both our sides.So we came to the caretaker(ticket counter) and asked for permission to camp.
The guy on the counter told us that they arrange camping and charge 700-800rs/person and only if around 8-10 members are there. We checked our pockets and we had only 350 bucks with us. We cried and begged him to allow us to camp with only 200rs as the nearest ATM was 35km away. He didn’t listen to any of these initially but when we mentioned that we had come from Mumbai on the bike and this is the only place where we want to stay in Munnar. He agreed. Now we had to manage our dinner and breakfast, water bottles in that 150 bucks. We had Maggie in a local shop, a water bottle and also packed two bread omelet for the night. At 6:30pm the tourists were asked to leave the place, the shopkeepers started shutting the shops, and we had all the place to ourselves. One of the guy on ticket counter gave us some wood and kerosene oil for the bonfire and warned us that it will be very cold at night and we thought he was just trying to scare us.
It was around 9 or 10pm at night and we were watching a movie on the laptop outside our camp when a thick cloud engulfed us in a matter of few seconds. We waited for a few minutes to clouds to disperse but then it started to drizzle (it was not exactly drizzling but we could feel some cold water droplets on our bodies and hear them on trees) and that was the time when we realized we were fucked up. We tried to light a fire but it was too late, so without waiting much and letting everything get wet, we moved our tent to a small shed nearby. It was our first time in a cloud, so we just decided to sleep and see things the next morning.
Woke up next morning and it was a clear view from our tent. What a morning it was.
There was an ocean of clouds below us. We were not able to see anything a few meters below us but it was almost clear in the sky. Another brick added to my wall of memories. We waited for sunrise with my favorite song (song of the river by pandit hari Prashad chourasia ) and I don’t have words to define those moments we lived during that sunrise. We took photos and lots of photos and at around 8 o clock we decided to move towards Kochin.
We left the top station at 8 o clock and while returning back we remember the tourist location(echo point) we missed that day. And again Bhishma, with his dirt track thing no road route thingy, led us to the lake’s edge. The lake’s view was hallucinating. The reflection of mountains in the lake was beautiful beyond words. We took some photos and Bhishma went a little further towards the jungle. I followed and as I reached that spot, I was speechless. It was heaven.
I didn’t understand for a moment what I was looking at. I just realize that the answer to a question which I always ask “why Kerala is God’s own country”.
After spending some time on this location we kept on moving towards the Kochin. There was nothing I wanted to see in Munnar after seeing what I saw in last few hours. So with few stops in between for breakfast, lunch and ass break, we kept heading towards Kochi. While climbing down, Bhishma was stopped by Highway Patrol for not wearing the helmet.
Well, some habits die hard. We paid our fine and continued on the road. We reached Kochi at around 4 O clock. There was heavy traffic, so we decided to take a ferry from Vypin to Fort Kochi. The gamble paid off well, and we reached quite in time there.