Munnar has a fairytale like quality, getting there however is far from waving a simple wand. For many hours it’s Space Mountain at Disneyland; the trip is long, over many windy roads and on a “government” bus. A government bus is: cheap, no a/c, hard seats, held together with tape and one crazy driver who often forgets he is carrying human cargo. I sat next to the window and watched as the bus sped up to make the hairpin turns all along wailing the horn to alert any oncoming traffic; we played chicken with other buses coming so close on the treacherously narrow roads that one bus would eventually have to pull far off into the miniscule shoulder leaving just enough space to reach out and high five the other passengers. As we zipped by the blooming jacaranda, smothered in bright lavender flowers hanging precariously over the sides of the road, I cringed and sunk into my seat more than once praying that we wouldn’t go careening over the edge down into the rolling hills covered in rows and rows of green tea leaves. At the bus station I befriended two Dutch boys and two young Israeli’s and we made the quest together: over the hills, through the tea fields and made some interesting stops in between.
Traveling with perfect strangers can be an experience all in itself. After a long day on the bus, a quick trek into the fields and a few drinks my perfect strangers were no longer strangers but amusing entertainment. “I LOVE MUNNAR” was a common theme being declared frequently and loudly causing us to almost be ejected from one of the three guesthouses in town.
I opened my shades to the purple and pink mist filled mountains in the distance; our one-day in Munnar was an eccentric India day. Munnar is a town high in the hills of Southern India, an escape from the intense heat and humidity of the South, flourishing tea plants covers its rolling hills. The motley crew hired a tuk tuk driver and off we went to explore Munnar. We paid a few rupees at ‘Top Station’ for a spectacular view of the mountains, trekked through a few quiet villages, crossed an uninspiring concrete bridge overlooking a lake, watched woman harvest the top leaves of the tea plants and my favorite – echo point. Echo point epitomizes the ridiculousness sometimes found in India. Our tuk tuk driver excitedly dropped us off amongst the makeshift shops lining the road, we looked around perplexed – we certainly weren’t in the market for plastic tchatzch? But then we heard it, the screaming and yelling from below. We made our way closer and through the rubbish we saw the hoards of people filling their lungs and yelling what we could only imagine were high school team cheers, messages of I love you and other short quips only to be met seconds later with the echoed response from a magical distance. We were stunned and brought to tears of laughter as we realized that echo point was actually a popular tourist attraction. When in Rome – the five of us sent our own message “I love Munnar” into the abyss and piled into our tuk tuk.
The shimmering green hills were transformed as the sun began to set and the luminescent full moon came over the hills. We used the steep local paths to admire the panorama and the light of the moon to find our way to sleep. Our time was short and sweet but I will forever love Munnar…. love Munnar….love Munnar…