April 13, 2007

Kerala Day 4 and 5 – Mighty Hills of Munnar

Waking up at 3 again was a pain. Hence Kushal and I decided to keep awake. He screwed up my statistics of Free Cell, deleting my last two months of hard efforts. However, I should admit that his strike rate is way better than mine. Reminds me of Shailesh. Anyway, we went ahead trudging ourselves to the Allepuzah bus stand amidst the morning rush of the newspapers making their way to this sleepy town of Kerala. The bus ride was scary. The driver obviously considered himself related to Bond and the steep slopes and the hairpin curves were of no consequence to him. In fact, the four of us took four different ways to handle this life threatening experience. As far as I am concerned, I was penning my obituaries. Gosh! I have so few good things to say about myself. And it didn’t feel nice. I still am wondering how the three of them kept sleeping throughout. Hence I started calculating if the steep drop was steep enough to call mom and say, Maaaaa!!!! Main jaa raha hooooo…..

Munnar is a highly overpriced place. I mean everyone here thinks that people earn in dollars and hence when converted into Indian currency, things should look cheaper. The chocolates at Munnar suck, except the mixed fruit variety. I would any day recommend Kodaikanal and Ooty Home Made Chocolates. Anyway, with Kushal and his Lonely Planet nothing was impossible on this trip. We booked into a nice little place (with TV of course. After all, India was beginning their WC campaign) and set out to explore the city. It’s a nice little place for treks if you are up to it. Having spent our last few days on the beaches and backwaters, we were pretty tanned by now and poor poor Sri; he’s getting married in 40 days odd. Luckily we had taken the help of an external beauty consultant in the form of Ms. Guha and her suggested Sun Screen Lotion should have helped a bit.

In an aside, all my Grandmoms always mention how dark I had become every time I return to Calcutta. Interestingly, no one ever seems to notice how thin I have become. Come on, everyone loses a few pounds here and there after a trip.

Coming back to Munnar. We took a little trek down the hillside but had to hurry back as the town sleeps by 9:00 pm. Interestingly, just like we seldom found “tendyr cogonut woter” anywhere in Kerala, we were also shown the door by the so called coffee houses who seemed to have run out of coffee. And God, everyone uses Bru. Where have all the nice homemade filter coffee gone? On our way back, we collected enough ammunition to last us through the India- Bangladesh match. Let’s stop that discussion here. There’s nothing worse than waking up late into the night and seeing your heroes falter. Someway though it reminded me of the rise of a new power. It begins thus, with a few signals and then before you know, a new champion is born.

We had booked a cab to take us around Munnar the next day. Once you get out of the “Slowly getting congested” city of Munnar, the lush greenery of the mountains welcomes you. There are lots of places to visit in and around Munnar. The hills are steep and the roads tricky. It’s not very advisable to do a trek around the countryside unless you are one of those who have been doing it regularly. So taking the easy way out, do hire a cab for the day.

Every place has its inexplicable tourist attractions. Honeybee tree is the one in Munnar. According to every guide and guide book, this is the only tress in Munnar where every year the entire honeybee population of Munnar come to build their nests. Something I mjst remember to check on when I come here next. We stopped on the way to ride elephants but somehow as they were taking their daily bath, we skipped the plan. I have always wanted to ride an elephant, yet there’s something inside that tells me not to ride on another living being. I would not mind being the jockey of a race horse but I would hate to be the tourist who whips a poor mule on the Mall Road of Shimla just for fun. Guess some childhood scenes get embedded in your minds.

Ever since I had seen Speed II, I had wanted to ride a speed boat. And finally in Kerala I did that. Things work out when you are the decision maker and your dad is not around to worry. Thanks to Hemant’s videos we have some amazing footage of us riding the waves. Sri and Kushal were taking the stills and as far as I am concerned, I was having the time of my life. We never knew that the forests were close to Munnar. Suddenly the guy who was driving the boat, stopped and asked us to stay quiet. On the other bank, we could see three elephants. Looked like a family out on a stroll. The guy said that for the first time in three months wild elephants were sighted. When we returned back, everyone around was talking about it. It seemed these sightings were becoming rarer by the day. After the usual jokes about my fraternity coming out to welcome me, we went ahead along the winding mountain roads. Speed boat being done with, we went over to paddle boats. Imagine a lake surrounded by mountains on all sides, imagine heaven on earth, imagine the lakes of Munnar.

The next stop was the Tata Tea factory and Tea Museum on the slopes. I’m very very particular about my tea, like most Bengalis. I believe that no tea is superior to Darjeeling tea, coffee is drunk by people who need to stay awake and more importantly by those can’t savour the richness of the aroma of Darjeeling. During my long stay away from Calcutta, I’ve missed my cup of tea at home. Anyway, that’s another story. Hemant and Kushal waited outside while Sri and I went in to understand how tea was made. I somehow hate tourists whose sole aim is to make the most out of every penny they have spent. They can’t stop for a moment to feel the air around them, understand how it feels to be free.

Tired but satisfied we returned back. Next day we had to leave early. Munnar lingered on in our memories as we slowly drifted into sleep.

No comments: