Kerala: ‘God’s Own Country’: Part 1 – Marvellous Munnar!
Our wheelchair-user travel expert Shama Noorani Choudhary recently toured Kerala and has penned down her enchanting experience here. Read on to know why Kerala is also known as ‘God’s Own Country’.
The first thing that caught my eye as I entered Kochi airport was a huge banner with the words – ‘Kerala, God’s Own Country’ written across it, which made me wonder. As my tour progressed, and with every new place that I visited, I began to feel that Kerala WAS God’s Own Country, falling more in love with it with every kilometre travelled. The awareness of ecologically conserving their natural resources, the unpolluted and often heavily fragranced air, the awe-inspiring scenery and the caring people, all contributed to this label. This was my first trip to the South of India, and I returned home enlightened about many things that I had never known about before.
My first stop from Kochi was Munnar, around 5 hours by road. The scenery unravelling before my eyes had me transfixed and made me completely forget about the fact that the road was quite a winding/bendy one.
As we left Kochi behind, I could see enormous ‘hills’ that looked like the Himalayas in the North, my comment about the similarity brought forth the knowledge that the Himalayas exist in the Western Ghats of India too! I felt like a real ignoramus for not knowing this, but we live and learn. The untouched beauty, the perfume of eucalyptus trees growing tall, the picture-perfect lakes, serene waterfalls, towering mountains covered in conifers, transported me back to my trip to the Himalayas, when I lived in New Delhi. The picture-postcard views, Mother Nature in all her glory, brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. The only thing missing was snow on the peaks, but I wasn’t complaining!
Munnar is well known for its tea estates, covered as it is with tea shrubs, both cultivated and growing wild. I learnt that growing tea in Munnar was the brainchild of a Scottish/British soldier and statesman John Daniel Munroe, who visited Munnar to settle a dispute with Travancore in the 19th century. The beauty of the place well and truly captured him and he decided to settle down here. His interest in agriculture led him to cultivate tea, which then became a huge industry, and it still is.
We visited the Tea Museum, which houses a small tea factory, the guide informed me that each size of tea leaf, from the largest to the smallest, is used to make different varieties of tea, even the remnant powder is used to make certain tea bags! From the tea production unit we went into a room filled with artefacts going back to the 19th century, which were used in the tea factory. The tour ended with a film recreating the full history of tea production in Munnar. I came back not only loaded with different types of teas, but also as an expert on tea production, really happy that everything was accessible.
Nestled amidst the mountains, the Mattupetty Dam at 1,700 metres above sea level, is a nature lover’s paradise that offers awe-inspiring views as one drives up to it. The dam is quite close to the Anamudi peak, the highest mountain in the Western Ghats in South India, towering 2,695 metres above sea level. This is a beautiful spot offering boating on the lake, but sadly the path down to the boats was inaccessible.
The breathtaking views more than made up for my disappointment of not being able to go for a boat ride, as did the accessible stretch of road that runs along-side the dam, selling everything under the sun. I discovered a local candy made from jaggery and tamarind, which had me hooked from the first bite! I learnt that apart from their usual usage in Indian cooking, these two condiments, when combined, created a mouth-watering candy. Needless to say, I bought many packets to carry back home and share with the ‘Imli lovers’ in my family!
‘Kerala: God’s Own Country’, to be continued…
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