Thursday, April 13, 2006

Munnar: the place less traveled by

I’m so glad my trip to Munnar, one of the most underrated places in God’s own country, has finally materialized. Munnar has been in my radar for two things: the breathtaking tea and spices plantations and the fact that it is much less commercialized.

A very decent amount of information can be garnered from this site: http://www.munnar.com. But I’ll also squeeze in as much as tips and other hard-to-find information as possible.

We took the Coimbatore-Pollachi-Udumalpet-Chinnar-Marayoor-Munnar route (5 hours in car) for onward journey and Munnar-Thekkady-Theni-Sempatti-Oddanchatram-Coimbatore (8 hours in car) route for return since we figured we could cover a good amount of places this way, and it turned out to be right.

Chinnar-Marayoor

Chinnar, on the Kerala-TN border, is a restricted sanctuary for wild animals. Despite all the hype about wild animals crossing the road et al, we couldn’t spot anything while traveling through Chinnar. I have no idea why everyone’s expected to pay Rs. 10 while crossing all the (innumerable) check posts, but we paid them all knowing well that we could get into needless trouble by resisting.

Marayoor (pic below) is a small place where you pass through Sandalwood forests. Shattered as I was for not spotting any animal throughout Chinnar, I was taken by utter surprise here when a deer decided to try its luck crossing our car. I braked on impulse and before any of us could even think about photography, it made a leap across the fence on the road and sprinted into the dense bushes. I wonder what I would’ve gotten myself into had I hit the forest deer. Guess lady luck was on my side.


Munnar

The scene slowly changes as one approaches Munnar. With about 30 kms to Munnar, one could start seeing miles and miles of breathtakingly beautiful picture-perfect tea plantations all over. The following pic was taken 15 kms before Munnar. I wonder if it is really the Neelakurinji flower (English: Blue Kurunji) that blooms once in 12 years. It’s scheduled to bloom in July 2006, but I’m not sure if I was lucky to see this early. [Can anyone confirm?]


Munnar itself is very small, sleepy and un-commercialized. While it is technically in Kerala, 90% of the people are Tamils and just 10% are Malayalis. Everything in the town happens two hours early. High sun comes at 7 o’clock, lunch gets over at 1.30 pm in the restaurants, and dinner gets over by 7.30 pm. You typically don’t get anything more than the South Indian Parotta, dosa and idli in the restaurants, despite all the long list of items in the menu. Additionally, you could get various flavors of tea, and spices like cardomom, cashew etc at much cheaper rates - at less than half the price you pay in cities.

Mettupatty dam: Everything about this reservoir (pic below) is normal, but for the fast jets. It was my first high-speed boating experience. ‘Stunt’ is the word to describe what those guys do. The fast bends when one side of the boat is 10 cm from water level while the other is 75 cm high are the high points. Tip: Take a boat of 3 to enjoy the James-Bond type stunts in water.


And unlike what’s mentioned in the websites, you can’t just get into any of those Swiss cattle projects without permission.

The next stop, Kundala dam (pic below), was ordinary except for the view and the wind-chill, but you might just take a breather en route to Top Station.







Top Station: This is one place for good trekking. There are three points in the trekking route. The first point where 80% of the crowd turns back, and the second point (the tent in the following pic) which is 500m further below in the hills where literally all the tourists turn back. What’s beyond is the best part for someone who’s serious into trekking. There were a couple of broken paths which vanish into thick woods, and that’s where the fun begins. We went 250m meters downhill through bushes and woods, but we had to return since the slope became maddening and it was impossible to continue without any trekking gear.


Echo Point: Nothing much here, except that you could get awesome snaps if the water is still. If you want to see all the reflections in the water (pic below), go at a time when there’s absolutely no wind – just after a rain or early mornings or late evenings.

Eravikulam National Park: This is supposedly the only place where you’ll get to see extinct animals like the Nilgiri Tahr and some birds. After all the climb and walk for 2 hours, all you get to see is only the Tahr (pic below), which is a goat version that’s adapted itself to mountains. Frankly, I wouldn’t go here next time unless I have excess of free time.

Devikulam: This is one place where you get good panoramic views of properly contoured tea ranges all over. (pic below)

Thekkady: About 2-3 hours from Munnar on the TN-Kerala border, this is THE wildlife sanctuary in South India. It’s set near the Periyar reservoir which in itself is at the center of a 90 square km forest full of animals. Following is the pic of different esoteric tourist packages on offer – one of them is the tiger trail wherein you get to camp 36 hours in the forest to spot real forest tigers.


For the lack of time, we just could the 2 hour boat ride in the reservoir. Despite the ride being in afternoon, we managed to spot several birds, a herd of wild pigs and bison, a deer, a turtle and a couple of elephants by the water side. Tip: Take the evening ride since that’s when most animals come to quench their thirst.

In all, it was a long awaited, beautiful break from the routine. I have no idea why Munnar is so less popular when compared to the likes of Ooty et al, but I love it this way. And I guess it’s good for Munnar too.

33 Comments:

At Thursday, April 13, 2006 2:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think munnar is less popular, may be it is less commercialzed....

 
At Thursday, April 13, 2006 3:35:00 PM, Blogger kr!sh said...

Beautiful!

 
At Thursday, April 13, 2006 3:38:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Anon: If popularity is relative, it's certainly less popular compared to Ooty and Kodaikanal.

 
At Thursday, April 13, 2006 4:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

point noted boss!!

 
At Thursday, April 13, 2006 9:02:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Point noted boss??? I smell IIMI. Amit Sharma? :)

 
At Friday, April 14, 2006 8:14:00 PM, Blogger Mirage said...

nice post...
It just reminds me of my trip to munnar some years back. We took our bikes that time and it was a memorable trip. I still remember that particular trip since it was not a planned one. We didn't know anything about Munnar, just heard of the name from somewhere. It was during my 7th sem at gct. The weather was very nice and we were all discussing about going out to nearby places and someone came up with munnar and thats it. We bunked the college that day and went to munnar. Your post made me to reminisce those wonderful moments of my life...

got to get back to reality/work... great pictures/good post!

 
At Friday, April 14, 2006 9:31:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Mirage: 7th sem @ GCT? Who are u anyway?

 
At Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:09:00 AM, Blogger Mirage said...

This is palani... 2001 GCTECE

 
At Tuesday, April 18, 2006 11:02:00 PM, Blogger Thanu said...

beautiful pictures. Never been to munnar but would love to one day

 
At Wednesday, April 19, 2006 1:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey you!
I was so ecstatic to see your account on Munnar. I visited India two years ago and had the good fortune to visit Munnar in summer. It is undoubtedly the most awesome place I have ever set eyes on. The scenery is stunning and the people at the resort that we stayed at, were beyond courteous. I have virtually told everyone in the US who would care to listen about that gorgeous place called "Munnar". Incidentally my grandfather who worked for a British tea company in the 40's lived in Munnar for several years and my father was born there! So my trip was bitter-sweet, tinged with nostalgia and a lot of " I wish" I could have lived there thoughts. Thank you for the spiffy pictures too.

 
At Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:26:00 PM, Blogger Pradeep said...

Neelakurinji or strobilanthus is set to bloom in 2006...however the picture that you have posted is not of the neelakurinji, which is a shrub.
It blooms once every 12 years and 2006 is a big year...March - April and May are the season of bloom. You would see entire mounain slopes covered with the purple haze of the neelakurinji during this period.The Eravikulam National Park and the Madurai road from Munnar town will be ideal points to view the bloom.

 
At Friday, April 21, 2006 5:38:00 PM, Anonymous Kanagu said...

Wow....Great pics da. This action item, 'Visiting Munnar', is long time pending with me and now u've added more fuel to that. Mmm...I need to close it asap.

BTW, 'Neela kurinji' is not a tree. It would be bush kind, i guess.

 
At Monday, May 01, 2006 7:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Nostalgic-Anonymous: I guess the 'I wish i live here' kinda feeling strikes everybody, but maybe its amplified in your case.

@Pradeep: Thanks for the info. I would be scouting blogs july this year to see if someone has pixtures of the flower.

@Kanagua: 'Action item' .. ? 'Pending'.. ? You truly need a break! :)

Lazy_to_login-Govar

 
At Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Kuriakose Paul said...

It is surely not neela kurinji...It is a shade tree grown in tea estate..U can find kurinji in hills.It is just a small plant...Growing in crowds...

 
At Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:52:00 AM, Blogger Kuriakose Paul said...

U missed Ernakulam(cochin) in ur visit to my place...Next time go to cochin...She is a real beauty...Go to edamalayar,boothathankettu,idukki dam site etc.They are not famous but offers much for a visit.

 
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At Saturday, May 27, 2006 3:18:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Paul: Thanks for the list. I've been to Cochin but don't remember going to all those places... would surely make a point to make it there during my next kerala trip.

 
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At Wednesday, June 21, 2006 8:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi...
Just wanted to tell u ...the flowers u saw wasnt neela kurunji...they are not trees but shubs..... those trees are once planted fro shade for the tea bushes... i was born and bought uo there...now in bangalore...
Prashanth

 
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At Tuesday, September 12, 2006 5:13:00 PM, Anonymous silvi said...

very alluring pixes !!! the blog links me with my past munnar trips. but the picture you had given here as neelakurinji is not right. it is a shrub and finds in the hills.except that error it is a nice blog. congrats.

 
At Tuesday, September 12, 2006 5:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautiful pictures.

 
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At Tuesday, May 15, 2007 7:46:00 AM, Blogger bhattathiri said...

Munnar will face water shortage. In the coming century, new challenges are emerging. We are confronted
with
>both old and new threats to international scarsity of many commodities
>especially good air and water causing security of population;
resulting
>widespread poverty. It has to be recognized by world leaders as the
most
>daunting of all the problems facing the world in the new century; and
>fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance,
respect for
>nature and shared responsibility now form common values through which
>achievements in all the fother categories can be realizedunnar will face water shortage.

 
At Tuesday, May 15, 2007 10:41:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

Whats your point dude?

 
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