Munnar in Monsoon - a trip to remember

One of the perks of living in Bangalore is the proximity to beautiful hill stations - far enough to take a break yet close enough to return in two days and continue with BAU. Here's an account of our much awaited trip to  Munnar - the beautiful hill station in Kerala, a state that justifies every bit of the name "God's own country".

The Odds :(

Cab Mishap
 Friday night - We're all set to start at 1 am- cabs booked days in advance with the best negotiated deal, hotels booked, time fixed with plans to watch sunrise and reach hotel on time. Cab driver simply ghosts out on us- doesn't answer calls, never turns up. Thankfully, Ola outstation comes to our rescue and we start off at 2am

Permit Part I
 Ola is awesome but their cars do not have all-India permit. Our research online gave us an estimated 10 hour time to reach Munnar but it never included the long halts to get state permits for Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala - halts that can extend to 2-3 hours each during long weekends. So for everyone planning a road trip to Munnar here's my two cents-
1. Go for a well known transport organisation rather than the cheaper rated ones and try for a cab with all-India permit
2. If you dont, add atleast +2 hours for the state permits if you are travelling on a long weekend.

Ofcourse if you have your own car then none of the above matters - just drive safe :)

Permit Part II
Another sad story. After being stalled for 2.5 hours to get TN Permit, we followed the shortest google Maps route to reach the border of Kerala. That's when we realised there was no checkpost and that we need to take a 100 km detour to Chinnakanal, Kerala for getting state permit. 

The Rain God
Did I forget to mention rains? Yes it was a monsoon trip in June, and but what we never expected that it would rain throughout the weekend, from the time of  our entry till the time of our exit from Munnar. Incidentally the weather was fine till the last day according to weather forecast.

The Trip :)
The hotel
We planned to reach hotel at 11 am, and finally did reach at 4:00 pm with rains in no mood to stop for the day. Needless to say, we did nothing on Saturday, just had lunch and relaxed in the cozy rooms of Fort Munnar. I loved this little hotel, although the term resort is a misnomer. At Rs.2000 per night this is a beautiful hotel in the hills, with valley view,a small jungle themed play area, a gym and a party hall. Rooms are clean and cozy and food is delicious but slightly on the expensive side.
Fort Munnar Hotel, Munnar, Kerala
Fort Munnar - Where we stayed

Fort Munnar Hotel, Kerala
Our cozy room at Fort Munnar, with valley view

Munnar travel group
Our travel gang - all fresh after breakfast

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate

Next morning we took a small morning walk across the beautiful valley near our hotel, before breakfast. We started for Kolukkumalai tea estate, the highest tea garden in the world, at the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The last stretch of the route has to be taken on a local jeep , as they are the only 4-wheelers allowed inside the tea garden. The bumpy ride on jeep inside the tea gardens is an unique experience. Of everything you plan to do in Munnar, this one should be at the top of your list for sure, although geographically it is not within Munnar. Luckily the rain had stopped and we could walk around the beautiful organic tea gardens in the hills in the part sunny, part cloudy weather. We then rode uphill to the tea factory. A short trek from the tea factory leads to a breath-taking viewpoint at the top of the hill. The panoramic view of the valley and the mountain is not the kind of beauty that can be captured through lens. Feeling like the wind almost blowing you away while you walk around the clouds is an experience that is best had in the monsoons. This is by far the most beautiful hill station experience in the southern part of India according to me.

Kolukkumalai Peak, Kerala

Kolukkumalai viewpoint, Munnar, Kerala
The stunning scenary at Kolukkumalai viewpoint

Mountain peak at Kolukkumalai

The trip to Kolukkumalai and back to Munnar took us about two and half hours, after which we had lunch a restaurant near Fort Munnar on the Chinnakanal road, "Salt and Pepper resturant". The food there was delicious and pocket-friendly.

After this point my memory is a little blurred on the sequence of events that followed but here are the things we did , not necessarily in that order

The valleys and photo-points
On our  ride to Munnar town we passed along many other scenic tea gardens, beautiful valleys and the so-called "photo points" at the turn of the winding roads. The lush green mountains on both sides is a sight to behold at Munnar. We took a sneak peek at the rose garden on our way, but did not find it quite outstanding. Needless to mention, we were indeed short of time hence had to skip some of the recommended places. The entire hill station has a heavenly beauty. Just driving on the hills, through the hairpin bents and occasionally hopping off the car to breathe in the fresh air is the best thing to do here.
Photo point, Munnar
Photo point at Munnar valley

Matupetty Dam
It is a concrete dam which was built in 1940 to store water for hydro-electricity. It is a popular tourist attraction and have a large number of souvenir shops and eateries around it. The beauty of the lake is enhanced by the gorgeous mountains on its backdrop. Well, honestly, I have seen better dams, with large expanse of well-maintained gardens and parks around it, but this too did not disappoint me. There is an amusement park nearby for adventure sports, and boating facility in the lake. We skipped both, but spent some good time enjoying the breeze and the sunset.

Matupetty Dam, Munnar
Matupetty Dam
Carmelagiri Elephant Park
It is a small shelter for Elephants were tourists can take elephant rides through the woods or can simply watch them. We did go to this place but were not impressed by the maintenance. I wouldn't really recommend this place, although I love the animal in general

On our way back we went to the location of Periyakanal fall only to find a thin stream of water drizzling along the hills.

Day 3: The day we returned from Munnar

It started raining since last evening and rained the entire night on Day 2, which continued even in the morning. As we set off we had to strike most things off our list, and headed straight to Eravikulam National Park which is on the way from Munnar to Bangalore (slight detour).

To our absolute delight, we found that the mountains that were dry even last evening were now decked with multiple waterfalls creating a spectacle all around. The drizzle we found yesterday in the name of Periyakanal Falls, today turned into a real waterfall. I have always been a lover of waterfall since childhood- it was always my most most preferred scenery on greetings card. In my mind I was hoping to see the  Periyakanal Falls today in full spring, but what I saw was a dream come true for the child in me. I tried to count all the falls we saw on our ride till I gave up and got lost in the beauty.

Mystic valleys of Munnar, Kerala
A house in the mystic valley

Periyakanal Falls, Munnar
Periyakanal Falls

Eravikulam National Park

The incessant rainfall continued as we reached the park and to our surprise we were not one of the few crazy group of tourists out there in the rains. The place was so crowded that the car couldn't be parked closer than almost a kilometer from the gate. There was a queue of atleast hundred people before us waiting for the bus , including some of those who are always there to break rules, enter the queue from nowhere claiming to be accompanying someone. This is where travelling in group is way more fun than travelling solo - at least you have people to share your frustration with. These kind of unique situations which force some free time into your packed sightseeing schedule triggers so many conversations that you wouldn't have otherwise had with same friends you have known for years.

The bus took us into the forests and at first I thought it would be sort of a jungle safari in the bus itself, but it was just a ride uphill after which we got off the bus and could walk freely in the woods. There are no predatory animals here, so it is absolutely safe to walk around and discover the hilly forests. The Eravikulum National Park has a host of flora and fauna but it is most famous as the abode of the Nilgiri Tahrs - an exotic species of wild goat. I would love to visit the place once again on a normal sunny day with clear view of the wildlife and scenary, but I didn't have much to complain about the fun we had running along the misty roads in the rains. We even spotted two Tahrs walking in the valleys.

Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulum National Park - can you spot the tahrs down there?

Eravikulum National Park
Drenched in rains at Eravikulam National park

That was an account of our memorable trip to Munnar - the one where we battled the odds thrown at us by, well some unprecedented turn of events, and came out gloriously content. Ofcourse we missed some places, we will go there again on some sunny day, but the memories of the monsoon will stay forever. 
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