Holiday Must-See in Munnar (Part II)
Holiday Must-See in Munnar by Sudha Mehta
So, you are here in Munnar and you’ve inhaled so much clean air that your head is spinning a bit. Now it’s time to work off some of that energy that comes from too much holiday food. Here are a few sights not to be missed in Munnar.
This is tea country. And because it forms such a central core to the experience of Munnar, you must go on to the Tea Museum or a plantation tour. There are several; and your travel guide, hotel concierge, friendly neighborhood restaurateur will recommend their favorite ones – which means, their second cousin’s, first born’s nephew works in that tea plantation.
The KDHP Tea Museum tour, which I went on, takes you through the evolution of tea making/rolling from its rudimentary roots to the sophisticated, fully automated version. The lifecycle of tea – varieties, flavors, types – is detailed along with the many, many ways in which each tea is made. The word ‘dust’ suddenly becomes more significant.
The very air of Munnar has a hint of spice to it. And as you wind down the ghat roads, you come across many spice gardens with trained guides who are well versed in the basics of Ayurveda. The woman guide at the Green Fields Spices and Herb Gardens took us on an hour-long tour of the display garden speaking knowledgeably about the varieties of spices, herbs, medicinal plants that thrive in the hills of Munnar.
She plucks out the leaves or seeds or pods of different plants so you can smell, taste or feel the texture of many of these plants. It is a pleasure just to be able to amble through those aromatic environs. At the end of the tour, you are then taken to the store and shown a variety of products that could make for good home remedies and also gifts for friends and family.
Flower Gardens: There are several;
Rows upon rows of peonies, impatiens, begonias, chrysanthemums, and flowers of every hue and shade in the universe… The Rose Garden is particularly well stocked and an obvious draw for most tourists. The walk through the park is like a film set with photo ops galore. There are seeds and saplings to bring back home, in the vain hope that your garden will look like a slice of Munnar.
The Floriculture Garden has a splendid array of succulents and cacti that are both beautiful and grotesque in shapes, sizes, and colors… There is an entire field of fruit trees most of the citrus family – sweet limes, mandarins, Chinese oranges, and oranges..that are carefully tended.
If you have the smallest interest in flora or are studying botany in school, the entire trip is filled with a wondrous variety of every type of tropical plant.
Eravikulam National Park
A visit to this national preserve is an experience not to be missed.
It begins with a long line at the ticket counter, which gives you access to small buses that the park runs.
The bus journey is jostling, sometimes precarious and often vertiginous – with sheer cliffs diving off of the side of the narrow road. The ride takes a mere ten minutes but transports you to another world of pristine landscapes that are truly awe-inspiring and breathtaking in their bounty.
Once you reach the drop off point, be armed with umbrellas/caps and water bottles. It’s a further 30 minutes walk up gentle slopes to the peak of the hill. And as you walk up more of the vista opens up before you – hills, valleys, dales, meadows all lush green and teeming with bird song, butterflies, flowers interspersed with thick shola forests. It’s a climb that you can do gently if you get there early – by mid-morning, the heat can be quite sharp.
The most rewarding siting of wildlife is the Nilgiri tahr – a species of wild goat that is unique to these hills. You can see small families of them grazing near the higher parts of the hills. The Forest officials make sure that you don’t touch them or scare them.
This is a truly lovely walk. Epitomizes all that is Munnar.
(Next installment – holiday activities – must-do, other than walking)
(Sudha Mehta is a writer and documentary filmmaker, she was also an ex-editor of popular news daily.)
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