The next stop on the Kerala tour were the hills of Munnar and it’s numerous tea plantations. Situated 1,600 metres above sea level in the Western Ghats mountain range it home to some of the world’s highest tea-growing estates and these surround the villages and towns of Munnar like a besieging army.
Our day started on the Ernakulam-Munnar Public Bus. At 86 pence for a 140km bus journey through the mountains it’s hard to beat on value. Our bus was a big beast of iron and steam. It looked and sounded like it was forged by dwarfs in their workshop and filled with the spirit of a tiger.. It’s wheels like talons making short work of the hill climbs it had to undertake that day.
So enjoyable was the journey that our weary travellers missed their stop and took 6 kilometres to register that fact. That and John was sure that this was not our stop – when in fact it was.
It is survival of the fittest on Indian Public buses – you either know in your heart this is your stop or you are doomed to travel onwards on the bus for an eternity.
Deposited on the mountainside all it took was the purchase of some Sprites and a Snickers bar or two to convince the shopkeeper that we were worth saving and he rang a friend who arrived like a knight in shining armour with his trusty Tuktuk to bring us to our accomodation.
Our new home was the River Rock Homestay, just outside the village of Kunchittany. The room was excellent having recently been built and the views were stunning, however the cooking was so-so and the summons to dinner was hilarious.
“Come. Come on to dinner. Come. Come on!!” – said in a sharp Indian accent and the banging of a pot.
The rooms were so good we even had satellite TV and managed to watch Braveheart one night. As one does.
The next morning we met our driver for the day. He hadn’t enough English to say ‘Hello’. This would be fun.
Our first stop after the 2 hour drive was Top Station. Nearly 8000 feet above sea level this afforded great views and photo opportunities of the surrounding lands. Top Station is actually located in the next door state of Tamil Nadu but the only road connecting it comes from Kerala. It derives its name by being the uppermost terminus of the Kottagudi Aerial Ropeway that was used to transport chests of tea down from the mountain plantations.
After that we visited 2 dams, a spot in the river called Echo Point – a place where a natural phenomenon allows you to shout across a from one bank of Kundula Lake and here an echo back. We also bought some lovely homemade chocolate from one of the many stalls and had a few photo stops. Lunch was an excellent Thali that was only superseded by the Thali the following day.
After lunch, with the heat beckoning and the driver running out of good ideas we decided to go back to the homestay.
The next day we went into Munnar Town on a less flash packer TukTuk and headed straight for the Tea Museum. The museum was great and we got to see close up the tea making process from leaf to bag.
When the workers found out John was Irish he was dragged across the factory to an old piece of machinery that was still in use. Made in Belfast Ireland was stamped on it!
To get back into Munnar we borrowed someone’s TukTuk as the roads were not pedestrian friendly. We spent the next few hours pottering around town, including a stop at the Munnar Wine Shop – the only place in town to buy booze!
Our last night in the homestay was packed as two French families were staying the night. Little did they know that Johnny boy speaks French. Instead of salacious gossip they were talking fruit and chocolate..even Karen understood what they were saying! Luckily we had our forbidden beers to drink on the room balcony for entertainment.
Munnar was relaxing but the 5.30am alarm in the form of the local temple was a bit much!