Two months before new year’s eve I had decided that I did not want to stay in the city on Jan 31st. I had no intention of being part of the customary NYE party scenes that transition from lively to uproarious rather quickly. Also, most of my friends had travel plans already. So the rest of us, that is- two friends and I- who had nothing to do decided to go to Kochi and Munnar, a plan that had been in ‘to do list’ for far too long..
Even though the itinerary for the trip was chalked out a long time ago, we started the booking process pretty late. Inevitably, we did not get train tickets and had to make do with bus tickets, praying that we would reach our destination safe and sound. (During night journeys I’m constantly paranoid that the bus might breakdown at a very isolated area leaving us stranded all night.)
So, bags packed, rooms and tickets booked, we set out to the God’s own country.
Due to the awful ‘new year weekend is just about to begin’ traffic in Bangalore, our trip got delayed by almost 4-5 hours. We had expected to reach Munnar by 7 in the morning, but we reached only around 11:30 am. Not complaining about the places we got to see on the way though.
The sight of hills and lush greenery was refreshing. Tea plantations surrounded us in all directions and looked like green carpets laid out towards infinity.
Once we reached Munnar, we checked in to our hotel and had a quick bath. As it was already noon, we decided not to wander for food and ordered at the hotel itself (which wasn’t as quick as we had wanted it to be).
After lunch, we visited:
Tea Museum – located in the Nallathunni estate that is owned by Kannan Devan Hills Plantations company (KDHP) and houses many photographs and tea processing machinery. It’s a must visit for tea fanatics and inquisitive travelers alike. A documentary of evolution of the thriving tea industry in Munnar is also shown to visitors which is worth your time. There is also an in-house tea shop with varieties of tea leaves, locally produced jams, essential oils and souvenirs.
Pothamedu viewpoint – There’s nothing extraordinary about this spot, as by this point we were acclimated to seeing tea estates just about everywhere.
It’s as if someone from the sky spilled tea leaves (or is it seeds? Saplings?) all over the hills of Munnar, and tada…
But yes, it does offer a picturesque view, far from the overcrowded town (as it was peak season) and we got to sit peacefully in the tea estate and watch the sunset on new year’s eve.
Later we returned to our hotel, had dinner in a nearby restaurant and went roaming around the town area watching all the lit up resorts and restaurants and arrived at the CSI Holy Church, which was beautifully lit for the new year’s mass. The church is supposedly 106 years old, made of limestone and has furniture brought in from England (trivia shared by the keeper of the church).
As we returned to our hotel in the freezing cold weather we decided to wake up only AFTER 7:30 am the next morning and not at 5:30 am as we had planned earlier. The hotel manager had even advised us that it would be unbearably cold in the morning and we wouldn’t be able to endure it. We had shrugged it off and told him that we wanted to see the sunrise, and insisted on booking a cab very early. A long walk in the chilly weather made us more rational, thankfully.
The next morning we woke up at 7:30am and got ready to cover the Top station stretch. Top station is probably more enjoyable if trekked, but since we had to check out by noon and leave for Kochi, which is about a 3.5 hours journey by bus, we took a cab and covered all the other places on the way back. The other places that we went to were – Echo point, Kundala lake, Mattupetty dam and a Botanical garden (whose name I can’t recall). There’s also a Hydel park on the same route, which we skipped.
After checking out of our hotel, we had a quick lunch – Fish curry and boiled rice, and headed to Kochi in a local Kerala bus, which was an adventure in its own right. These buses have shutters made of leather or some thick fabric instead of glass windshields! You have to either close it completely or keep it open entirely. There’s no ‘half open’ option AT ALL. It had us wondering how people travel during the monsoons. Nevertheless, it was one heck of a thrilling ride! At times we felt that we might fly out of the bus, because – a) there was so much wind gushing at us, and b) bus drivers in Kerala are notorious for their speeding. We were left clutching to whatever bars or handles we could find, almost able to hear our hearts thumping, as the driver skilfully (and scarily) maneuvered the bus through the narrow curves and steep descents. All the while I was extremely restless and couldn’t wait to reach Kochi, as the wintry Munnar had left me craving for beaches and some sunshine!
All about Kochi in the next post!