Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Magical Munnar

Early apologies for the abundance of photographs. Too much beauty in Munnar to not share with you.

The rolling hills, cool atmosphere and tranquil surroundings made Munnar the sweetest treat. We stayed at a humble, adorable guest house named Zina Cottages. The host Velu was never seen without a smile. We tested that theory when we unexpectedly extended our stay there another night after he had already booked people to take our room.
Tea picking seen en route up the little hill to our guest house
The view from the "road" above our guest house. Went for a walk here our last morning in Munnar.
The view at the bottom of the hill- Eucalytus forest alongside a creek. I love this picture.
 The three days there were spent enjoying the natural beauty that surrounded us from every angle. After Mani, the auto-rickshaw driver, dropped us off at our guesthouse the first day, we decided to ask him to be our guide for the whole trip. So each morning he would meet us at the guest house and drive us to somewhere new. Destinations are pretty far apart so hiring a car or rickshaw seemed most efficient.
This is the best, and possibly the least realistic, ad for a rickshaw.
The first day we visiting Forest Flower Garden and drove around the mountainous town. We kept asking him to stop so we could take pictures and absorb the gorgeous surrounds (I can’t say that enough). We saw the most beautiful flowers at the garden and I fell in love with Dahlias. 
Bri, Mona and I admiring the beautiful flowers
Dahlias for days- new favorite flower!

I don't know what this flower's name is but I love it and know I've seen it in the west. Can anyone tell me its common name?
The most special part of the day, however, was the walk we did in a local valley village. We spent 45 minutes walking through a random village near Kundale Lake. We made friends and got some fresh carrots, as well as admired the tranquility of a creek in the hushed atmosphere.
Brianna, Mona, and I before we hiked down and around the village
Farm fresh
Mmmm- fresh carrots! Raw veggies were hard to come by, so we really enjoyed this treat 
Homes for the people living in the village- India really knows how to use color

I recorded this pristine creek because it sounded exactly like those CD nature sounds, but this was better since it was right in front of me.  
Day two was spent trekking in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. We hiked 3 km to a beautiful, empty waterfall to swim. It was quite warm out and the treat of a cold water dip at the end of our trek was so worth it. We saw an insect similar to a secoida and heard its loud shriek (sounded like a rickshaw). Later we found a dead one on the floor and admired the beauty of its wings. Mother nature at its finest.
Yay- I can still do it! Tried to do my inverted nameste but the picture didn't turn out as well.  
Group pose in front of Thoovanam Waterfall (a reward after our 3 km trek in the heat)
And now we....JUMP!

We think this is India's version of a cicada. They're as loud as a rickshaw (not kidding) and camouflage insanely well against trees.
Our last day, or extra day, was spent at Cinnamon Garden learning about different plants and trees. We saw how cardamom, pepper, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, allspice, and cacao grow. The most amazing was cardamom as we learned it grows pods next to the stalk and leaves of its own plant. Another interesting one was turmeric- I knew it was a root, but to taste it directly from the root was delicious and impressive.
The green pods here are cardamom and the stalks behind are part of the same plant
Our tour guide, Philip, gave us paan leaves to eat. Mmm... 

The second half of our last day was spent at the “Tea Museum”. We were very lucky to have the process explained to us by one of the employees. Without that opportunity we wouldn’t have learned anything. Unfortunately the museum is barely related to tea and much more focused on the company’s manufacturing tea and the history of Munnar. A full entry on the tea making process to come…

Tea blog-entry teaser... 

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