The Green Green Hills of Munnar

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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Flag of India  , Kerala,
Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Periyar we took the 7.30am bus to Munnar. Of all the buses we have taken during our trip, this was one of the most overcrowded with people hanging out of the doorways. However the stunning scenery more than made up for this and we actually really enjoyed the journey. The twisty mountain road would its way northward across the Western Ghats passing through large plantations of cardamom and other spices. Fortunately, cardamom requires shade to grow and this has ensured that the native forest has been left largely intact in the areas where cardamom is grown. As we approached Munnar, the forest was replaced by a rolling green sea of tea plantations stretching in all directions and the bare tops of mountains including southern India’s highest peak.
On arrival in the bustling town of Munnar, we checked into Green View Guesthouse, situated slightly out of town where it was much more peaceful. The next morning we hired a rickshaw for a day of local sightseeing. Our driver, Sebastian, drove us along the mountain roads stopping every now and then to gaze across a carpet of green tea trees. We also stopped at a beautiful lake where we went for a short walk to escape the crowds of Indian tourists who gather at all the known beauty spots! Our final point was Top Station, a point on the border with the state of Tamil Nadu and renowned for its amazing views over the mountains. Unfortunately by the time we arrived, the blue sky of the morning had been replaced by cloud and all we could see was a thick bank of fog!

The following day we changed our mode of transport and Sebastian’s brother took us out in his jeep following a different road to the distant Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Like the previous day, the landscape was nothing short of spectacular as we climbed over a high pass and dropped down the other side into a wide valley of tea and pockets of native forest, where many of the trees were in bloom. We passed many waterfalls and drove through a sandalwood forest, reaching Chinnar after an hour or so. Here we paid the park rangers to do a two hour trek. Chinnar is situated in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats so the forest here is much drier with the odd cactus bush and Frangipani tree dotted about. The park is home to leopards, deer, elephants and the rare grizzled giant squirrel. Tom spotted a small deer and we saw numerous birds. We were walking around at about midday, not the best time for wildlife viewing so we were satisfied with our sightings. We were more interested in just experiencing the different environment of this area, where the Western Ghats descend into Tamil Nadu.

On the way back we had intended on stopping off at Eravikulam National Park, a good place to spot Nilgiri tahr, an endangered type of mountain goat. However, when we arrived there was a queue of over hundred Indian tourists waiting to pay for their entrance tickets! Deciding that it wasn’t going to be the peaceful communing with nature experience that we were after, we decided to head for home! The lesson to be learned from this is not to visit national parks or other popular places at the weekend.

Back in Munnar we went to our favourite restaurant, Sree Krishna and had a wonderful meal of onion pakoras, Kadai vegetable curry, chapatti and paratha. So far the food in India has been fantastic. It is nearly all veggie (restaurants are divided into ‘veg and non-veg’ and ‘100% pure veg’!) and extremely delicious. Breakfasts consist of dosa or uttapam which are kind of like pancakes and served with curry and a coconut relish. Curry for breakfast, curry for lunch, curry for dinner! Nice!

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