Our holiday to Munnar began on a morning towards the end of August; indeed an august time to visit the verdant hill station on the Western Ghats in central Kerala. With the monsoons at its fag end, the hills and valleys of Munnar looked like it had just come from the laundry – clean and fresh.
As we drove down from Kochi, we saw Kerala at its green best. It was only the terrain that began to change. As the plains turned into hills and valleys, there was mist hugging the mountain tops and the atmosphere kept getting cooler. As we neared the hill station, we passed a few sleepy settlements and many a waterfall. Every few kilometers there was water cascading down the folds of the mountains and we soon lost count of them.
After a quick lunch of rice and fish curry we set out to the hills of Rajamala where the famous Eravikulam wildlife sanctuary lies. This national park is known for its population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. The sanctuary van left us halfway up the hill and from there we were on our own to walk another kilometer and a half up Rajamala to watch this species of the deer in its own environment.
As this part of the country is known for its frequent drizzles, the sanctuary office gives umbrellas on a nominal rent. So all you have to do is pick up an umbrella and have a nice uphill walk; in search of the Tahr.
On the lofty Rajamala we saw an unusual waterfall. Here, neither does the water gush between rocks nor does it fall in the form of a rapid, but flows gracefully over the bulge of a huge monolith of a height of 100 metres. As we were visiting the area just a few months after the flowering of the once-in-12-years Kurunji, we got to see a few of those plants with dry flowers and some of those last blooms too.
The following day we hit the meandering hill roads once again, this time to Mattupetty. The route was through a picture-perfect scenery of hills covered with tea plantations, most of them belonging to Tata, the company from which the famous Kannan Devan Tea comes. It is said to have got its name from Kannan Thevar, a tribal king who once ruled there.
At Mattupetty, another place of interest in Munnar, there is the famous Indo- Swiss project, a livestock farm that houses several high yielding species of cattle. Close by, there is the Mattupetty dam where visitors can go boating. Yet another attraction here are the small shops selling Keralite handicraft and homemade chocolates.
Apart from this tranquil atmosphere, rich vegetation and cool weather, Munnar is a haven for adventure tourists who may want to do treks through the hilly trails.