Trip to Munnar
Before I got to Munnar, I had an idea that Kerala is a destination for honeymooners or for travellers looking to bring back home some idealistic moments and memories. All I was aware of was the pristine beaches, sparkling backwaters and the far-famed Kathakali dance. You will be rather shocked to know that travelling to South India for me was like a pilgrimage which I used to avoid. Truly speaking Munnar was not in my travel journal before I met up with my pal, Joel in Mumbai. After a longtime I visited my school friend last winter and we were actually planning for a weekend getaway to Mahabaleshwar. Nuh! We weren't satisfied with our pick and we shuffled with other nearby destinations except Goa because we had been there done that. It was then that I Googled some destinations and came up with Munnar. Well, the images stirred me up and led me to set a status update on facebook, 'Hows Munnar as a weekend getaway? Need your suggestions...”. Ah! Within couple of hours there were more than 50 likes and 20 comments which proved Munnar to be the positive pick. Thanks to all my facebookians. So...at last Munnar, and the awaited moment came to hit the highway on 21st of December, 2012.
Joel kick-started his brand new Bullet and we headed off ....zooming towards the pleasant break of the winter day. All we knew was that we were heading for Munnar ....without studying proper road directions we had no idea how long it was going to take. Anyways, we headed en route Vashi Bridge to continue onto Sion-Panvel Express Highway and before the entry to Mumbai-Pune Expressway we took a tea break at a highway Dhaba. It was around 5.30 when I actually realized that travelling to Munnar on bike was adventurous to the foolishness and without losing our hope we sneaked up onto Highway 47 where I noticed Kolhapur 246kms, Hubli 450kms and Bangalore 870kms. Ah! There we were in complete dilemma. Where the hell is Munnar??? At around 9am we took another break to have our breakfast and we were somewhere in the middle of the Highway 47. I asked Joel to google the direction to Munnar on his iphone and it showed the direction en route Kolhapur, Belgaum, Hubli, Bangalore, Salem and Erode totting up a distance of more than 1400kms. 'Joel...are you kidding me? There must be a short route. Check out if there are any other way from Kolhapur or Hubli. If we take this route...then our entire weekend is going to be on the bike! After a lot of search we decided to find our own way en route Kolhapur, Belgaum, Karwar, Udupi, Mangalore, Kannur and Kozhikode. It seemed to us that our route along the Arabian shore will gain us some vigor. Keeping hope was the only choice of our journey. At around 2 in the afternoon we reached Kolhapur where we held back for couple of hours at a cozy restaurant for the third breakfast of the day. Joel was no doubt extremely tired and it was then my time to kick-start the engine and head for Karwar which was approximately 260kms.Amidst the lush greenery and series of hillocks the spic and span highway allowed me a smooth drive which made to relive this peregrine journey. By that time of the day the sun seemed bit unfriendly and slowly the lazuli sky merged with the twilight and further driving west we felt the shoreline tranquility nearby. It was around 10.30pm when we stepped inside a hotel close to Karwar beach and each of us took hold of the simmering down time with a glass of golden fluid and a lobster mollified with varied spices and green salad surrounding it.
Tick-tock...tick-tock...and the alarm at 4 prompted us to cede our warm bed and the cubby room, yet our dopy eyes showed us the way to one of the pristine beaches in India marked with an unparalleled beauty. It was around 5.30, the sky winked with the fresh rays that reflected upon the palm grove down the shore and as the rays got its potency by the sunrise I was just numb to catch the breathtaking view of the lush green mountains inclining towards the ocean hues. Nonetheless the beguiling beauty of the beach couldn't draw our attention to held back our trip and our dedicated journey to Munnar was uphold with sentience. Down the highway, on the left the Western Ghat's imbues and the dense wood's suspire and on the right the splashing sound of the Arabian blues, on the top the sapphire sky, we headed towards Managlore. At around 8, after having tea from a road side stall, we hit the Edapally Panvel Highway that dropped us at Kozhikode en route the isolated beauty of Kannur beach, which is also amongst the pristine beaches in India, where we took an hour halt.
There it seemed we were right on our heels and wheels and a strange verve boosted us to rush along the state highways surpassing the dark and creepy hours of our journey to hit the meandering paths of Munnar. Bhroom! Bhroom!... and there I came to an obscure stop. 'Joel... I think we are here. Ask someone which place is it.' It was around 9.30 pm and we could hardly find someone sensible to ask for further direction. Hindi was totally a alien language in this part of the country and communicating in English with the folk was an act of playing 'damsharas'. Somehow we got our direction to a nearby resort named Ayurcounty Chancellor Resort, which is a budget hotel in Munnar, where we decided to lay our nest for couple of days.
'Hello! Sir! This is Joel here. Unfortunately I'm suffering from food poisoning and the doctor prescribed me for 3-4 days bed rest...' Few bossy and melodramatic words came from the other side and I heard Joel to say at last, 'Thanks a lot Sir!' It was 23rd morning and was quite different. We found ourselves amidst a strange mist layering over the lush green rolling hills. 'So this is Munnar!!!' I exclaimed lighting up my cig. It was time to exploit and play with the thrilling nature. By the forenoon as the sun beam dispelled the mist the breathtaking greenery and dewed street took us to a world of varied spice gardens and tea & coffee estates.
Breathing was so easy and energetic here and we could hardly notice any other elements other than greenery and the rare species of wings including vivid plumes of butterflies and birds. A walk down the off ramp of the mountain slope we acquainted with the meandering stream that carried an eccentric vibe bestowing the wildlife of Munnar dwelling in the woods. By 1pm we headed back to our resort for lunch and we were expecting to savor the local cuisine of Kerala in a local way. So it was time to acquaint the Keralian culture. I found it quite similar to Bengali presentation the way they served us on banana leave instead of steel plate but the essence was different. They say it 'Sadya' and according to my knowledge the dish was served with boiled rice, sambar, kichadi, olan, papad, some kind of dal, a curry which was similar to North Indian Raita but had the typical South Indian flavor, a side dish with mixed vegetables, a dry dish which I remembered as Thoran and many other items which were more or less similar to taste. Though different but the lunch was highly savored and for dinner we asked the manager to keep ready some spicy non-veg cuisine including fish. Have heard that sea foods are available in plenty and are deliciously prepared as a unique local cuisine of Kerala.
Thereafter we hired a cab for sightseeing in Munnar but unfortunately our driver seemed to be an alien to us or we seemed aliens to him. Keeping up the linguistic issue, the driver took us to a scenic view point en route tea, coffee and cardamom plantations. From some road side sign boards and hoardings it came to our knowledge that we were actually in the Idukki district. The view point from this part of the state familiarized us with the natural ambience surrounding our nest. Couple of hours before the sunset, the driver took us to the Echo Point from where one can shriek and scream and enjoy the pleasure of his own voice coming back.
The following day we made a plan to head for Anamudi Peak and we were aware that this region is an abode of various kinds of flora and fauna and is very well known for possessing the wildlife of Munnar. The trek amidst the dense forest under the shadow of Anamudi Peak, which is also breathtaking Munnar sightseeing, is worth of a lifetime. This comes under Eravikulam National Park and instead of any kind of wheel safari we decided to trust on our heel safari. We were thankful to Mr. Thampan who arranged us the trek within the national park. I have heard of the Nilgiri Tahrs from other brainsick travellers like us and hence it was my prime attraction for the day and in this trip which was no more a weekend trip. Our patient wits, keen and seeking eyes and slow movements though got hold of time from morning to forenoon but the sudden break of the silence and chittering of the birds gave use a throbbing sensation. 'Joel...keep the camera ready...and be quiet...I think...' and before I could complete my projection we saw the wilderness in reality. It was a tribute to our trip to Munnar as we encountered a herd of wild Gaurs after a Tahr. It was just a glance of remarkable and memorable sight that unfortunately I couldn't frame the wildlife of Munnar up in my travel album. For that moment I thought it was better to seek those beasts from naked eyes than to take hold of it through lenses. By the end of the day we couldn’t figure out further such raging activity and slowly with losing hope we headed back to our hotel in Munnar. A strange aura kept following our way and that flashed back more brightly when we were down with three pegs of whiskey sitting by the bonfire. Nonetheless our trip to Munnar by road was a foolishness but was worth for a lifetime.By Swairik Das
Best SeasonNovember to February