The area around Munnar is every bit as beautiful as everyone says it is.
The rocky, green hills slope down into the hazy off-white horizon, and high above, the sky is a soft blue with faint wisps of cirrus. A few minutes outside the town, the hills are covered with vast tea plantations, with the bushes pruned in somewhat neat lines that make me think of a japanese sand garden.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, the town and the outlying areas were completely packed: India’s Independence day was coming up on Sunday. It was Thursday.
We looked at each other, cursing ourselves for traveling on a holiday weekend… But honestly, there’s a holiday, like, every friggin weekend. Anyway, in the end, we paid ridiculous amounts of money for rooms that probably cost half of what we paid, any other time of the year.
For our first day, we decided to put our legs to good use and just walk. We left Munnar with no fixed destination in mind. We figured we’d just meander and then catch a bus up back to town when we’d had enough.
By the end of the day we’d walked no less than 15 kilometers, thanks to a totally-not-to-scale tourist map. It wasn’t a dreary walk, though…
First we were surrounded by tea plantations, then cardamom groves, and then finally we descended into the rugged wilderness of the mountains. We were pretty much completely alone, except for the occasional lost Indian tourist driving around in his brand new Tata.
Nestled into the trees every now and then were sizable houses, stylish and well maintained, almost reminiscent of New England, except that the house paint was almost always a bright, bold color that stood out from the lush greenery. Doors were intricately carved blocks of wood, the fences black and imposing.
It was a beautiful, calming jaunt that took us away from the holiday hubbub, and for a while I completely forgot that we were in a third world country… Until an autorickshaw rumbled up next to us and the driver asked, “Where you go?”
The second day, we borrowed a motorbike from our friendly chai tea dealer and went off to look for a motorbike to rent. By 11 am we were off, on a real motorcycle this time, with permanent smiles etched onto our faces.
To begin with, we went out to a lookout point about 10 km outside of Munnar.
Then we set ourselves to go all the way to Top Station, at least 30 km away.
Traffic was horrid, but with a motorbike of any kind, it is entirely acceptable to bypass the line and go right up to the front of the line. The Mattupetty Dam was backed up so far it took us at least 5 minutes just to putter past all the cars to the dam. (Indians and the road–this is a blog entry by itself so I’ll save the bitching for later)
The dam is so narrow the traffic mostly goes only single file. 30 minutes one way, 30 minutes another. Two wheeled vehicles are exempt from the wait, fortunately.
Our motorcycle krew.
By the time we dropped off the motorcycle at 6:30, we were covered in dust and grime and soot, and our arses were sore from riding all day long. Definitely worth it!
I look forward to our next motorcycle adventure, wherever and whenever that may be!