Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Enjoyed my cuppa in Munnar

After a writer's block which kept me from blogging for almost a year, it was God's own country, very own country that got me out of it.

2nd Feb, 2010, I opened my eyes, it was 6.00 am in the morning, beside me was my lil one, fast asleep. We were under some thick comfortable blankets and inspite of that the chill wouldn't let me go back to sleep. Had dawned a sweater (with a hood), yet I couldn't get back to bed. I went across the room to the misty windows, a peek out and the moonlight shown in abundance, day break was fast approaching. I wrapped a shawl around myself and walked out onto the green lawns. The cozy bungalow overlooked the valley, the Chokkanada peak. I drew my hands into the shawl to keep them warm.

Below...sunrise at Chokkanadu hills

As I sat down on the steps leading out of Parvathy bungalow, I heard a gentle pitter,-patter,. It was the dew dripping down from the tin roofs. I walked out and onto the grass which was moist and richly laden with dew. A deep breath and I knew I needed no Oxygen bar/ recent day spas to refresh me. It felt like a doorstep to heaven. The colours were vibrant, the joy, boundless and the feeling, heavenly.

Parvathy bungalow

P had mentioned an amateur singer out there, doing daily riyaz. I craned my ears, and finally I heard the crooner. Beautiful melody flowed. The bird chirped on, with a few interruptions, when from the vales there was the early riser- the rooster who yelled a cock-a-doodle-doo.

The amateur crooner

A few more deep breaths and a look at the changing hues in the skies, and day break it was! The moon hung on for awhile longer....the place was so beautiful, it just did not feel like setting I guess :)

Moon...unwilling to set

The bungalow we stayed in had support staff for cooking meals (a la carte), housekeeping etc. The tricky part was to communicate with them. They understood very little hindi or english.
The first few meals we allowed the cook have a go. We were curious about how the local cuisine would taste. After a day, we decided to step in. I called on Denzen - the cook and asked him, 'you have bhindi? lady's finger? and gestured so he understood what I was talking about. I did not have pen or paper else would have drawn it out for him (I am not a bad artist afterall). 'No madam, available illay'. Oh! I said, a little crestfallen, as we were a little fed up of the beans, cabbage, carrot doled out the earlier days. Then what? I asked. "something something...kai" said Denzen. "I show". He rushed to the refrigerator and got out a bhindi!

After day break, we went about getting ready for some sightseeing. Unlike old times, any form of vacation HAS to include some activity for our little one. A play area, animal rides , boat ride and the works.

Munnar tea estates were like nothing I have ever seen before. Compared to the terrains in Ladakh, the hills in Manali, it had a completely different charm. They are all hills just the same but what and how vegetation grows on makes all the difference. The day was spent driving on from Photo point , Madupatty Dam onto Kundale lake which were some truly picturesque spots.

Photo point
Madupatty dam
Kundale lake

Although neither P nor me are tea drinkers, to quell our curiosity regarding tea we visited the Tea museum ....

Tea museum

and thereafter the tea shop owned by KDHP (Kanan Devan). The variety of blends and flavors left us fairly confused, nonetheless the cardamom tea sample that was doled out at the museum was so yummy that we picked up a few packs of tea for tasting. Never knew that there was an orthodox and ctc method to process tea. While the former produce is expensive, the latter is mostly what common man consumes. What left the marketing streak in us baffled was that KDHP only sold locally and auctioned the rest of the tea. We really think the brand and product is good enough to be sold independently. But well, we are not tea drinkers...so may be we don't really know.

Some of the other produce are spices - clove, cinnamon, pepper, clove, nutmeg. These are available in whole as well as oil forms. Strawberry, much to our surprise is quite a rage there (almost like in Mahabaleshwar I suppose). For those with high cocoa addiction, there are homemade chocolates. On our sightseeing journey, we also chomped on some local produce - freshly roasted cashewnuts, yummy fresh carrots right from the fields and juicy luscious pineapples, freshly plucked and sliced. While I write this, I am constantly dabbing the edges of my mouth and key board ......

Farm fresh carrots
Bitter gourd - wonly Rs.5/-

What about the kid? Hmm, there was a boat ride and horse ride for her at Madupatty dam and 2 hours of sheer bliss at the 'elephant arrival spot'. There are half a dozen elephants here, tuskers included. The place is run by Carmilagres mission. Here the toddler and the Pa got an opportunity to bathe and ride the elephant and also feed it. They sure enjoyed themselves while I simply decided to be kind to the animal.

Away we go.. listen here 'The Elephant song'

Pineapples, corn and what not. The Elephant loved it

Scrubbing the gentle animal

While we were put up at Parvathy bungalow, some of the other spots where one could are Seven malai bungalow and the High Range Club.

In the evening Denzen came upto us, Saar, he said, night food ? I replied, alu mutter. He promptly said,'No madam, illay'....I then remembered I was in mallu land where the language spoken was tamil (yes, Munnar earlier belonged to Tamil nadu). I then asked 'potato ? green peas ? Denzen nodded, 'yes madam'. I then said 'dry'. Seemed like I had communicated. Denzen excused himself, 'Madam - alu mutter no. Potato peas fry yes'. I relented. This would come closest to what we would like to eat. At the dinner table, we had a completely different but tasty version of the punju alu mutter with curry leaves and all spices he could find in mallu land.

After the third day, both P and me exchanged thoughts about not having seen a single tea picker, despite being informed at the tea museum that tea is picked every 10 days. Sometimes one just gets lucky, and lo the next morning while we were packing to return, we heard chattering on the hills. As the hills are very silent, except for the birds chirping or the breeze ruffling the leaves or the humming of bees around the nectar filled flowers, the chattering seemed unusually loud and as we peeped out of the window we noticed tea pickers at work! women.....how much they talk :)

Tea workers exchanging notes - quite a cacophony in the quiet hills

Wood paneled interiors of the Parvathy bungalow. Very child-friendly

A lovely holiday, imprinted in memory... Munnar - so beautiful, so serene......

In case you haven't still heard this song, please do.

Location : Munnar, the Parvathy Bungalow (KDHP)
Days : Late Jan to early Feb 2010
Occasion : well deserved (and planned) holiday
Pictures : thanks to trigger happy P

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