(This is an account of a week spent in Kerala in late September 2009. Cross posted here
Kerala Trip - I
Kerala Trip - III
Munnar was a six hour bus ride away from Cochin. Much of the journey was through the Nilgiris, pristine hills shrouded in blue at dusk. (Would that have given the Niligiri, literally meaning ‘Blue Mountain’ its name?) Despite the forest cover, hairpin bends and zigzag curves, the roads were pleasantly motorable. My hotel, located 18 kms from Munnar town proper was a resort so big it had its own transport. When I checked in it was pitch dark but for the dim light of street lamps.
The next day I woke up to the sight of hills covered with cardamom forests, tea gardens and mist. The hotel was delightfully secluded with neat row-houses and villas for suites, cobbled roads and winding stiles. From atop a huge rock, I contemplated the sunrise that dispelled mist and some of the chill in the crisp mountain air.
Meandering through hills carpeted with neatly manicured tea gardens and covered with trees of silver oak, acacia and eucalyptus I reached my first stop in Munnar, Echo Point. The next was the Madupatti Lake that offered joyrides on diesel-powered boats. Both places were clichéd and annoying touristy. A sign announced that the 100-bucks-a-ride houseboats and speedboats were a part of the state's hydro-tourism initiative. Wouldn’t a canoe help tourists explore the picture postcard lake better (and not have them bothered about their carbon footprint either?)I would have felt the outing was wasted but for the pazhampuri (fried banana) I had at one of the kiosks outside Echo Point. Oil gone rancid possibly from being used for frying for the umpteenth time had given a unique tang to the pazhampuri. It was my first taste of Kerala food in Kerala because the hotels I stayed at served buffet meals mostly consisting of bastardized versions of food from everywhere else in the country.
On my way back to the hotel I halted at the marketplace in Munnar. It was closed because of a strike. I was disappointed at not having been able to do any shopping or get a feel of the place. I tarried en route at one of the many waterfalls the Nilgiris are endowed with.
A little after dusk the nip in the air had returned. I was back at the rock which was my vantage point at sunrise, lying spread-eagled on it with fog floating over me. I was unmindful of the time that had lapsed until I heard the banter of passers by heading to a campfire in the hotel. I sat gazing at the crackling fire, feeling its warmth. As I watched the spiraling tongues of flame, sparks flying into the night sky, the logs turning to embers and finally to cinders, I told myself this was a place to be a roadrunner, not a tourist.
Late next morning I left for Thekkady.
Photo Credits: Athirath Shetty, Sanket Borkar and Shreyas Patil
The site of the bonfire on the morning after
Pineapples and corn of the cob at one of the many kiosks outside Madupatti lake