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Two for Tea...

And Tea for Two!

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The next stop on our travels was the hill top town of Munnar; a major centre of India's tea industry. Having just stayed in Fort Kochi, a town which welcomes and caters for tourists and travellers alike we were both expecting to find something similar when we reached Munnar. The billboards for hotels situated in the town along route also made us think we were headed for a place that was well and truly part of the tourist trail. However this wasn't the case and we were surprised to find Munnar to be a slightly shabby, damp, muggy, heaving little place. Despite a few hotels and some shops selling a whole variety of tea from the area there were no real signs of Western tourism having had a major impact on the place.
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As always our first objective when getting off the bus was to find somewhere to stay and as always it was made a little more tricky by the tuk tuk drivers who seemed insistent on helping us. In the end we allowed one to drive us up a hill for 10 Rs to a small home-stay which was undergoing some building work. The room we were shown on first inspection seemed clean enough, however our opinion on this was to change, but with there seeming to be little option we decided to stay. Adam went back to pay the tuk tuk driver and was gone a while, when he came back he explained that he'd been given the hard sell on a tour which the driver, Ravi, could take us on tomorrow to see the surrounding area. We had his number and decided to have a think about it.

When we got a little more settled in the room certain things became more apparent, like the distinct smell of damp and the obvious patches that had spread across the walls. Also the corners were in need of getting acquainted with a feather duster, and Adam was a little concerned by the occupants of a couple of the cobwebs. Someone in Kochi had told us that Munnar was cold and we firstly didn't believe it could be possible and secondly thought that if it was true then we would welcome it, well we were wrong on both counts. Munnar definitely has a chill in the air and strangely we missed the heat, especially in our little room where the dampness seemed to penetrate everything.

However we survived the night and decided that we would stay another. We hadn't after all travelled all this way just to catch a bus straight back, we wanted to see the tea plantations and so planned to ring Ravi after breakfast. As it turned out this was not necessary because just after ordering in one of the many eateries in Munnar, Ravi found us. It seems the powers of tuk tuk drivers extend far and wide and sometimes you just have to admire their tenacity. Half an hour and a bit of battering on price later we were travelling away from Munnar and into the land of tea.
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It is quite hard to believe just how much tea is grown in this area, every where you look across the hills there are tea plants. The colour of their leaves in the sunlight is so bright and makes a stark contrast against the other tree covered hills. They give the region a very dense and full feeling. Already we felt that our decision to stay and take the tour had been worth it and that this was the most beautiful scenery we'd seen on our trip so far.
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Our next stop was the Mattupatty Lake, which was created by a small hydro-electricity dam and is surrounded by steep hills. Walking across the dam you get a really good impression of the power of water as it gushes out with great force.
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We were not alone in our viewing, it was a Saturday and Indian tourists were also marvelling at what their country has to offer. We continued on and often Ravi would stop and tell us to take photographs, sometimes in fact he would take the camera away from us and take the photo himself. Once he said 'I'm a driver not a photographer,' which made us wonder why he was posing as the latter and not getting on with being the former! That said they were generally decent snaps.

One of the stops along the way was to sample the best Masala tea, according to Ravi. Due to the general business of the area it ended up being a drive through tea stop as he drove right up alongside the stall and we ordered and drank in the tuk tuk. I myself was never exactly a massive tea drinker at home, I just like the odd cup now and again so this new tea is really neither here nor there for me. However for Adam it really just reminds him of what he's missing, and the sweet, spicey Chi is not to his liking at all. Being polite though he drank it all down like a good boy, although Ravi did seem a little perturbed about how long it was taking!

We then made the last part of our ascent to the top
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and crossed over the border from Kerela in to Tamil Nadu. It was quite funny because the road in Kerela is tarmaced and in good condition, but as soon as you enter Tamil Nadu the road becomes a bumpy, rocky, track and we were bounced around in the little tuk tuk.
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We didn't venture very far into the new state, just far enough to stop and look back across the valley into Kerela, where as Ravi pointed there is a little peak which is where the highest tea plantation in the world is situated.
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On our way up we had stopped off and booked a ride on an Elephant, so we had an appointment to make on the way back down. Unlike Adam I had never done this before so was not sure what to expect. We climbed up on to a little platform and then the Elephant was brought along side, like getting into a carriage on a rollercoaster. It wasn't quite as heart pounding as going loop-de-loop but there were a few moments where our white knuckle grips were the only thing keeping us from taking a tumble.
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It was a good experience though, and the Elephant keepers/trainers were smiley and having got hold of my camera proceeded to take a lot of pictures, so it is all well documented.
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Surprising though how boney an Elephant's back is, suffice to say unless you're sitting in one of those luxurious boxes frequented by Maharaja's, I think horses are an altogether safer and more comfortable bet.

The Elephant encounter over we made our way back to Munnar and the tour was complete. It turned out to be a really enjoyable day and we saw a lovely, nature filled side to India. One more night in our damp little room, a dinner of market bought vegetables and street cooked omeletes and then an early-ish start to catch the bus to Alappuzha, where a trip on the Kerela Backwaters awaits.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 06:40 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world

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