MUNNAR

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    DHANYA GEORGE
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    After enjoying our stay in Kochi, we were truly looking forward to our next destination –MUNNAR. Since once I would join with my family , this trip was planned in order to enjoy some last few day of freedom. After a 6-hour journey, we reached Munnar at 8pm in the evening finding our way through rain & fog. That behind us, we checked in at Green valley vista. After a quick bite, we retired for the day.
    However, it’s located 6 kms from Munnar town on the Madurai highway. Irrespective of the hotel you wish to stay at, availing services of a cab is highly recommended. There were many taxi owners outside the property – each one of them offering local sight seeing tours at almost half the cost of the travel desk within. We decided to laze around the next morning.
    We moved towards the Munnar town. Munnar sits above 1800 metres from sea level and is one of the most popular hill stations in South India .Munnar is at the confluence of three rivers. In Tamil, the word ‘munnu’ means “three” and ‘aar’ means “river” referring to its location at the confluence of the Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers.Hence “Munnar”is a shortened version of ‘Munnu Aar’. From Munnar, I came to know how beautiful it was, but we were truly amazed as the car approached this majestic region as the morning clouds dusted the mountain tops. The kids in their woollen jacket observed the hills greenery and water falls through the window, which forced them to shout “wow” many times
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    Upon arrival we were warmly greeted as we checked into the hotel. Grabbed quickly the complimentary breakfast from the hotel itself. We really wanted to get a feel for Muunar, so we travelled in rickshaw and had the driver took us around, especially off the beaten path, where the locals shop, eat and relax. To me, this is the way to see a new location through the eyes of the local community. We headed to our first destination the Eravikulam National Park.
    The park is located about 12km from Munnar. This park is home to endangered Nilgiri Thars, butterflies and birds. In my opinion, it is a great place for trekking and relaxes. I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the Nilgiri Thars and the tea plantations from above the hills.
    Our driver told us about Neelakurinji, a plant flowered only once in twelve years. Munnar was over crowded in 2006 when it bloomed last time. On the way back to Munnar town , where our resort was located, we had seen several waterfalls.
    There are number of tea factories on Munnar. We were then taken to the Tata Tea Museum located at Nallathanni Estate. This museum is worth to visit. It is exclusively on tea with curios, photographs and machineries. The process of tea production was narrated by the friendly guide over there. .It was learning experience to see through the processing of tea manufacturing. First of all fine leaves are collected by tea workers and then they are put through a machine to make in to smooth paste. Thereafter, the moist paste of tea leaves are dried and reduced to raw tea powder. Then they are processed through different graders which would determine the quality of the tea leaves. After that they are packaged for sale.
    Then we visited the CSI Church, constructed on rock without any plaster during the British rule. We walked to the Munnar vegetables and fruits market from the church. I purchased some fresh strawberries and other fruits with unfamiliar names. And I picked some nice tops and homemade chocolate for myself
    We had spent some time at the garden nearby the town. The children were anxious to see the picturesque floral scenery and do everything!

    Next day we had visited Devikulam Seetha Devi Lake, it is located 16 km away from Munnar on the Thekkady direction. Our driver told us about it is believed that got its name as Seetha Devi (wife of Rama in Ramayanam) bathed in this lake. Thus, bearing religious significance. This idyllic hill stations with its velvet lawns and cool mountain air it’s a rare experience.

    Next we went to Lockhart view point. The place is a paradise for both nature lovers and photo addicts alike. This place has a cave with an interesting story behind it, an incident which took place a long time ago. His place has a cave with an interesting story behind it, an incident which took place a long time ago. According to what had happened, a thief used to live in this cave and used to loot any who passed that way. The cave is known by the name ‘Malayil Kallan Guha’. Tourists now are excited about the cave and pass that area with their fingers crossed; remembering the incident that once took place there.

    Next we went to Periakanal Waterfall Tall & majestic, the waterfall was in its full glory. The water from the falls which is at a height of 2000m, originates from Devikulam. The water from Devikulam is famous for being rich in minerals and oxides. The beauty of Munnar became obvious as soon as we hit the road. Mountains & valleys were covered with immaculately cut tea plants
    Then we visited the Kolukkumalai, Kolukkumalai is about 7900 ft above sea level, world’s highest tea cultivation land and 38 km from Munnar. The hill top is accessible only be jeep or on foot across the mountains and it is about one and half hour journey from the munnar town. Kolukkumalai is a paradise for nature lovers with a variety of flora and fauna endemic area and swirling clouds below.

    We decided to opt out of the bumpy trip as a ‘massage ride’ was not on our priority list. We had enough massages these past few days. Good to know, that the tea plants in the region are between 80 & 100 years old. The silver oak trees are purposely planted at regular intervals in the tea estates. Its flowers are golden-orange bottlebrush -like blooms, between 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, in the spring, on a 2–3 cm long stem and are used for honey production.It is simply awesome and unique experience about nature. Then we returned back the resort.
    Third day we had visited Mattupetty Dam, Mattupetty Dam located around 11 km away from Munnar, on the Munnar-Kodaikkanal road. The most attractive part of Mattupatty Dam is its still water which reflects the tea garden around. In the midst of the hills, surrounded by the tea gardens, shoal forest and hilly woods lays a beautiful lake, just a few miles away from the Mattupetty Dam.Then we visited the Echo point and Top Station ,Echo point is a very beautiful place in Munnar, which got its name from natural echo phenomenon situated at a scenic lake bank. Top station, located around 32km away from Munnar is the highest point(1700m) in Munnar. The place falls on the Kerala Tamil Nadu border.We returned back the resort after having the food from a restaurant in Munnar town.

    On the last day, everyone got ready for Marayoor trip. It is located about 40 Km away from munnar. Is a rain shadow village lying in the eastern side of the Western Ghats and is bordered by the neighbouring state Tamil Nadu. Marayoor is the only place in Kerala with a natural growth of sandalwood trees. A reduced rainfall is most suited for the the sandalwood factory run by the Forest Department is of tourist interest. Descending the hill, one can see the cane crop in the valley below dancing in the wind. A park named Rajiv Gandhi National Park is an ideal picnic spot nearby. A children’s park formed under the canopy of a single Banyan tree spreads across a hectare of land and is a wonderful sight. Then there is the Thoovanam Waterfalls where one can spend endless hours romancing with nature. Thoovanam Waterfalls is situated inside Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki district of Kerala. It lies in Pambar river, one of the three east flowing rivers of Kerala. By the way, we saw numerous butterflies, even at noon time. And there were birds including minivets and bulbuls.

    Next we went to Chinnar wildlife sanctuary. In the eastern parts of the high ranges of southern Western Ghats lies Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. The 90 km sq sanctuary is unique with its floral, ecological, geomorphologic and cultural significance. Chinnar is a unique thorny scrub forest with xerophyte species. This sanctuary is one among the 12 protected areas of Kerala. I came to know about the option of trekking and camping inside the Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary from a travelogue recently. We can stay inside the forest in a Hut. The Hut is located on the edge of a hillock with an excellent view of the forest below. All through the night i can hear the trumpeting of elephants and calls of various animals. There are some 2-3 key animal crossing paths around this hut, good chances of sighting on the evening and early morning walks.next day I had to leave early morning. After a hurry shopping, we returned back to the hotel early as we had to leave Munnar next day morning.

    We will come back again. May be when Neelakurunji blooms next time.

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