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 ... )