Saturday, November 24, 2012

Travel : taking the high road to Munnar


I've been arm-chair travelling, my computer and I. We've been stuck in Mumbai while the rest of the city was on holiday(the Diwali vacations should be called Travel Vacations!). So I'm trawling through my library of photos and have been re-living journeys past... smiling, remembering, refreshing memories long buried under the files of daily life.
Join me?

Isn't it amazing that the journey can be twice as beautiful and ten times more interesting than the destination? Journeys tell stories. Of lives and dreams and hope. Every passer-by is a spark for the imagination.
That man pacing at the bus-stop, is he waiting for his daughter to come home?
That boy running down the road, maybe he's found a secret path to the river where all the tadpoles have just hatched. Or maybe his mom is just shouting at him to hurry and buy some biscuits from the shop because some guests have dropped by. Maybe he had polished off everything in the pantry when she wasn't looking. Or maybe the guest is his teacher with a long list of complaints!

And so we go, past serene rivers that flow languidly between dreamy banks of gossiping trees, and holding up a mirror to misty, hazy hills that go up on tip-toe to watch the world go by.

Past tiny little villages and homes sheltered by giant trees, each one promising stories to tell. I want to live here for a day, climb up those rough-hewn steps overgrown with moss and grass, listen to the wind soughing through the trees.
I'm sure there are wild-flowers there . And a zillion butterflies. Maybe even a little mongoose or two. I'm sure a hundred birds are calling too... if I could only linger to hear them all.

On, past ginormous trees laden so heavily with fruit that they tempt me to stop, taste and linger. I could pause here and wait for each and every one of those jungle-jack fruits to plop down, relish their golden sweet-tart juiciness all-day long.
Pause a bit when local customs demand it. Even if it means knocking your head on a stone marker, as locals recommend all first-timers to these mountains do, to keep away all traces of car-sickness.
Even if you don't ever get car-sick. And even if you don't have to bang your head quite that hard!


And on again, past cool waterfalls racing and tumbling down in a breathless rush. Reaching out and splashing me with a come-and-play tingling spray of icy-cold water. Throwing out little rainbows that add a surreal touch of magic to the scene.
I love the look of water on rough rocks, the damp gleam and sheen. Almost as much as I love the music of falling water. Crashing, roaring, splashing...


And the little make-shift stalls that dot the way, selling mangoes and gooseberries and chillies and wax-apples... all floating in their own little pool of brine and spices. I wonder if they know how luscious those fruits look, displayed against those worn, dark planks reeking of wood-smoke and a thousand glasses of kattan-chaya (strong black tea) .


Linger awhile to marvel at a couple of Bonnet Macaques (see that little thatch of hair? That's how they got the 'bonnet' tag!) sharing a meal. A banana, a juicy, ripe mango and a fist-ful of peanuts make a feast fit to tempt even a simian king.

And smile at the wrinkle-faced little one swinging on a rope-like liana hanging from the super-tall trees. Absolute cuteness!
But what the camera cut off and what you can't see here is the absolutely deep ravine that it was hanging over, with nothing but a very precarious toe-hold on life.
Then gasp in awe as you look around and see yet another waterfall, driving down and pounding huge boulders to sand in what must be a centuries-old mission. Centuries? no, more like since the days when Time was a baby.


Then shiver a little with delighted excitement as the first chill breezes roll off the mountain-tops and the first velvet-y manicured bushes of tea steal into sight. Climbing the accident-prone ghats safely and nearing the destination prompts a sigh of thanks from many drivers who stop by tiny little road-side shrines like this one. And even more fervent prayers from others on their way down the winding, treacherous ghat-roads.

And then it's in sight. The destination. The reason for the long, long drive.
But I would make that trip to Munnar just for the magic of the journey. And the wonder of spectacular landscapes and stories guessed at, thronging past my window.

(Did you enjoy this little travelogue of the journey to Munnar? If you did, come back for the next post. I've got a ton of pictures to show you! You didn't think I'd leave you at the door-step to Munnar and not let you in, did you?! 
And, if you just can't wait, take a look here . 
Or go see 'Life of Pi'. I haven't seen it yet but I'm told Ang Lee has done a great job of show-casing Munnar's beauty in the film. I wonder how he enjoyed the journey ... )

36 comments:

  1. OMG breathtaking Sunita! Soothing and exciting at the same time. That is how i feel when I travel to the islands and I am long overdue. I always get that feeling I call "the pull of the land" whenever I drive through the green and rustic countryside.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Helen! I love that return to our basic natural surroundings. Its so calming to the jangle of our city lives. And, by now, I think everyone who reads my blog knows how much I love the mountains so everytime I go to any such place, it's like my soul soars and sings (while my poor tropical body shivers).

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  2. I just got back from my "Diwali vacation trip" and reading this makes me want to go somewhere yet again!! indeed, the journey is what offers so many more possibilites... and i wonder so often what all those people i see are up to... what has made the little boy laugh so hard? where is the woman headed, that look of expectation on her face? loved reading this post and look forward to more!

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    1. That's the magic of the journey, Anuradha. It's so much fun, isn't it? And that thing about wanting to travel again, I feel that every time I look at my travel-photos.

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  3. Sunita girl hello there !
    This was wonderful : ) .. I laughed at the thought of the little boy involved in so many possible stories ! and the head knocking against the sign was perfect for a wee bit of superstition !
    The country side is so beautiful ! lush and green .. while here in Canada winter is coming .. cold wind some rain and finally some snow is predicted.
    Yes .. arm chair journeys visiting past ones that is .. are always so much better from the comfort of home ? LOL
    Joy

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    1. You have no idea how many stories I spin for each passer-by, Joy! Still, it's fun ;D
      Yes, it's so green, isn't it? And these were clicked in the peak of summer too. It does get very cold in Munnar but no snow, though. I don't know if I should add "luckily"!

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  4. What a nice escape your post was today. I can't wait for tomorrow's adventure!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed this post, Amy.Yes, do come back soon for the next post. I have a feeling you'll like it even more.

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  5. Oh for the mountains ! We loved Munnar too and it's serene beauty. AND we knocked our heads against the stone. Someday ,we will be back to see the KURINJI, when the mountains in Munnar are covered in in its smoky blue-purple flowers that bloom once every twelve years. At one point we saw a villager sitting on a boulder by the side of the road and in the fading light of the late afternoon,I could have almost sworn that it was Mahatma Gandhi !
    Looking forward to the next post,Sunita.

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    1. Hi Usha! Great seeing you here. I missed the Kurinji too. Very disappointed!
      Mahatma Gandhi in Munnar ? ... hmmmm
      I loved staying far away from the centre of Munnar town. It was so primeval.And to top it all we were told that wild elephants regularly trek past the estate bungalow where we had stopped! Beautiful, beautiful place. I loved it!

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    2. Yes, Mahatma Gandhi...dhoti,staff and seated in his iconic pose,et al. And I'm sticking to my story !

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  6. Really enjoyed the trip. The tea groves look like the coffee plantations I saw in Panama--very beautiful.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, thanks for stopping by. I love the scent of coffee plantations. Especially when the coffee bushes are in bloom. Tea grows at higher elevations than the coffee growing areas here. But, both are beautiful in their own way.

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  7. Beautiful pics Sunita!
    True that.. the journey has its own charm. Loved reading the travelogue :)

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    1. Thank you, Priya :)
      Make sure you come back soon for the next part of it.

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  8. Sunita, I forgot how wonderful armchair travel can be; fantastic landscape and fine words in unison. Enjoyed it very much, and ahh not tired at all... makes me want to pack up!!

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    1. Ah yes, Trudi. It lets you travel so much further than you thought you could, right? Pack up! Maybe I'll meet you there :D

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  9. My traveling days are over since I became a quadriplegic ten years ago. So posts like this allow me to see different parts of the world and drink them in. Interesting fresh fruit in brine to lengthen their shelf life? And can't say enough about those waterfalls. Thank you much for this post.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this journey, Patrick. Here's another one for you : http://the-urban-gardener.blogspot.in/2009/08/plantation-dreamin.html
      That was the precursor to this current post, actually. The river that you see in the first photo is just a few kilometres away.
      I have to admit that my photos just don't do justice to these places. So whatever you see, just keep in mind that the actual place is easily 50% more beautiful (at least).
      I hope I'll see you here again soon, Patrick.

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    2. Forgot to add... yes, those fruits are soaked in brine to preserve them a little longer than our tropical climate allows. Generally there are no artificial preservatives used; just good ol'-fashioned salt, water and the only additives may be some chillies.

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  10. Those landscape shots are beautiful!

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  11. I forgot to mention that I've also nominated you for a Beautiful Bloggers award and linked to you post. Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you so much, Aaron! I'm going to drop by to read your post now.

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  12. Your site is amazing ....sorry I've been away and haven't commented in a while.

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    1. Thank you, Bren. I'm so glad you like it :)
      Come back soon, okay? I hope to have more interesting posts up here soon.

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    2. Miss your shares ... hope everything is alright.
      Happy New Year!

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    3. Happy New Year, Bren! Thank you for the concern, yeas, all is well. My next post is just getting delayed because I've been stuck with a lot of work and am trying to finish some projects too at the same time. I hope to post as soon as possible.

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  13. lovely description of a very lovely place
    Chitra

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    1. Thank you, Chitra! so glad you enjoyed it :)

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  14. I am soooooo Excited....Going to Munnar for 2013 New year celebration with Friends..Got your Blog while searching about Munnar...I am not much of a reader but your Blog changed me....Keep posting..Ill catch you with more pictures and memories when i am back from Munnar...Take care...Your Blog is awesome..

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    1. That's great, Linisha! If it's the first time you're going there, I hope you'll explore a bit and get away from the town area which can be over-run with tourists. I loved staying at one of the plantation homes there. So very beautiful!
      And I'm so glad you enjoyed my blog. Come back soon to read more, okay?

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  15. A beautiful journey. Isn't it great how travelling gives us endless possibilities for further exploration? I'll look for your visit to Munnar. By the way, I did see the movie "Life of Pi". It was great and scenery was fantastic too.

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  16. Absolutely, Joyful! The post on Munnar is still pending. I will complete it soon I hope. I'm just a bit tied up with work.

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  17. Beautiful journey...I have been to Munnar and it's absolutely amazing...want to see the Life of pi and now there is another reason :)

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    1. Hi Nayana! Great to 'meet' someone who loves the same places that I do :)
      So, did you watch 'Life of Pi'? I did, after I posted this and felt that it just didn't do justice to the spectacular-ity of Munnar and its surroundings. Pity!
      (but, of course, I'm incredibly biased ;D )

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