Time to cool off. 25C is the top temperature here this season and we had to dig out sweatshirts for the evening. Clouds slowly glide up and down the mountains, occasionally covering the whole area in thick, drizzling fog. Everywhere you look it's shades of green. Imagine the perfect scenery to Ed Sheeran's “I See Fire” and you have Munnar.
We made it to Munnar despite the hartal, although it wasn't exactly a smooth ride. A group of protesters stopped us when we entered Kochi, surrounded the car, and in mixed English explained why we couldn't go onwards before the protest ends at 6PM. They generally acted peaceful and friendly, but still being surrounded by a bunch of upset men was anything but comforting.
Turned out one of the protesters had some relationship to our driver—either an acquaintance or shared origin. He helped negotiate our release. The men told us to put a sign on the windshield saying, in capital letters, “HOSPITAL” because that was one of the exceptions from the hartal. And off we went.
That first roadblock wasn't the only one on our way. We were later stopped in three other places, but only briefly—either because a protest was marching, or the hartal supporters held cars for “5 minutes”, before permitting them to move on.
The protest literally brought the region to a standstill. Villages and towns we passed on our way were ghost towns with all the shops, restaurants and other parlors closed. Not a soul in the streets, where usually one can barely squeeze through because of the pedestrians, cars and motorbikes. The benefit: no traffic! If it wasn't for the roadblocks (and the challenge to find an open restaurant for lunch) we would've had a perfect drive.
Munnar is the most climatically distinct location on our route because of its location high up in the mountains, 1,700m above sea level. By comparison, Bengaluru is at 900m. We were a bit worried that our accommodation won't have air-conditioning nor fans, but these are completely obsolete here. Even a bit of heating in the winter season wouldn't hurt. Thankfully we had some sweatshirts that we put on for the first time since landing in India.
Mild climate makes the region ideal for growing tea. Plantations cover vast areas around Munnar—hilltops, slopes, valleys, all green, all covered top to bottom with densely packed, low bushes. There's a million shades of green around here that I couldn't quite capture on the photos because I could only make them in the evening, with limited light.
Our accommodation, Green Magic Home, is another perfect find, with a stunning view on the surrounding mountains, villages down in the valley, and a sea of tea plantations with narrow service roads and paths cutting through the bushes. All of this available from the sizable terrace adjacent to our rooms, where we chilled out the whole evening and had our breakfast the next day. We can't see Munnar city from here, but that's for the better. It's nothing more than an administrative center.
Relaxing is pretty much the only thing to do here. No temples, palaces to visit nearby. There might be hiking opportunities, but we'll leave that for another trip. We'll be passing a wildlife sanctuary on our way to Coimbatore, and we thought we might be able to see the animals there that we couldn't do back in Wayanad, but sadly we won't have enough time. It'll take us 5.5 hours of driving, not including a pit stop for lunch, and we still need to pick up clothing for the wedding before the shops close on Friday evening.
I think we've struck a very decent balance during this trip, between actively sightseeing, diving into the local life of India, and chilling out, catching up on reading and writing. Munnar's our last stop before the grand event of the wedding in Coimbatore. We'll be finishing with a blast before heading home. As always, time flew much faster than we were hoping it would, but I daresay we made good use of it.