Kerala: Munnar

Part 2 of the Kerala travel diary

Posted 23rd November 2010 by Rahul Aggarwal

The heavens had opened as we touched down in Kochi. Although the monsoon should have been over a few months ago, it seems that weather everywhere is playing havoc. We boarded our minibus and set off for Munnar, the commercial tea centre of India. After three hours we finally arrived at the delightful Ambady Estate, not quite a homestay, but a small ‘resort’ of 8 spacious cottages set amongst lush green vegetation. Although the rain continued to pour down, the mist which formed and clung to the hilltops was majestic. As the night closed in we retreated to the candlelit dining area and sampled other South Indian specialities, including appam, similar to a pancake, but made of coconut milk and rice flour. This is eaten with vegetables and lentil-based gravy. Another full stomach and it was off to bed. We had to be up early for our tea plantation visit in Kollukumalai, the highest organic tea estate in the world.

The following morning, the clouds looked ominous and it wasn’t long before the rains came down again. Nevertheless we jumped into our waiting jeeps and started our 90 min journey up the hills. What struck me straight away was the verdant lush green colour of the thousands of tea bushes making up the entire face of the hill. Now and again a person would appear amongst the bushes, either plucking the tea leaves or carrying sacks of the stuff used to make our fresh brews back home. Perched at the top of the hill was the old tea factory set up by the British but still in use today. Even some of the same machinery is still used. One of the local workers went through the seven-step process of making tea and it was fascinating to see how fresh green leaves are converted to the loose tea ‘dust’ we have in our teabags. The tea here is typically transported to Kochi where it is sold in auction.

As I looked out from the factory window, the clouds cleared for a few minutes revealing sublime views of the Western Ghats and hills on the Tamil Nadu side. It was only appropriate that we finished off with a hot cup of the local tea, and then we were back in our jeeps winding our way down the bumpy road back down to the centre of Munnar. We had a satisfying lunch en-route and then returned to our ‘homestay’, where we spent the evening chatting about all things tea and our impressions of South India in general. Although the weather could have been better, we were all in agreement that there was something quite special about the rain and mist that continued to hang over this enchanting place.

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the links below to navigate through this journey.

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