After having survived the calamity of getting lost in the misty mountains we had a good night’s sleep. Woke up fairly early. And set out to explore the wonder that was Munnar.
We had to travel about 65 kilometres today according to our itinerary. We decided to start early so that we could return before sunset ( to avoid last night’s episode repeat). After much calculation and trepidation we climbed on to the bike and made a move.
Growing up, “The Famous Five go to Billycock hill” was one of my favourite novels. Enid Blytons’s description of the English countryside to this day is vivid in my mind. All of a sudden I felt I had entered those very pages and all the images my brain had conjured up stood right in front of me. Full of life. A beautifully laid road sometimes mud, sometimes concrete, grasses and shrubs of all sizes lining the edges of the road with occasional sprouts of flowers in all colours imaginable. Daisies, hibiscus, roses, dahlias, orchids. Pan a little further to the sides and you would face sometimes several rolling hills carpeted with tea shrubs one after the other, in all directions or tall, dark, handsome trees on the slopes of the hills, some still standing while some of them razed to make way for more tea plantations. And then there were the hilltop roads which on one side continued as the face of the mountain and the other dropped to the deepest abyss I have seen.
Out first stop- The Mattupetty dam. The place gets its name from the mighty dairy farm with cutting edge technology situated here. The Mattupetty dam, one of the 19 or so beautiful dams in and around Munnar. A road has been constructed on the head of the dam along its length so that one side faces the huge green (everything here is Green!) lake surrounded by the tall trees on the banks while on the other is the high wall of the dam that helps block flooding. Man and nature in tandem. The sun was up now. The sunlight bounced off the surface of the pristine water, setting aglow the entire place.
The ritual picture- clicking and we set off again. We passed a couple of lakes but they did not excite us. We kept up the ascent. Wild flowers, shrubs,deciduous tress continued to delight our eyes. The weather was the most pleasant. A perfect mix of the warmth of the sun and the cool mountainous air tingling our senses.
We stopped at the Kundala lake. Another picturesque place, a bit touristy though. We parked, got down and headed straight to the tea-shop. After the tea-therapy we headed out into the bank. I settled down on the grass munching on some snacks ( the foodie in me awakens every now and then) and he went on his picture-clicking frenzy. The banks of this beautiful lake is filled with some trees(don’t exactly know the kind) with the sunlight hitting them right on their heads illuminating their tops.There were numerous small hills covered with either a carpet of grass or tall trees surrounding the lake. The scenery stretched far into the horizon.
After a little pondering and clicking we started on our final destination for the day- Top Station. After another 20 minutes of climbing we were able to reach TOP STATION. Top Station, situated in the Kanan Devan hills, as the name explains once served as a stop/Station for a ropeway service during the times of the British. It was used to transport tea to and fro between the bottom and top of the mountains due to absence of roads. There were three stations originally namely the Top, Central and the Lower stations. Top station now functions as a vantage point for some really awe-inspiring sights.
While driving I was thoroughly struck by the beauty of the neatly laid tea-shrubs. It is only these little woody plants that are everywhere. They have taken over the mountains, hills, plains in this town. Tall, beautiful trees were being cut down continually to make way for more tea plantations. Only hills with steep slopes were devoid of the tea shrubs. A little food for thought.
After a small climb we reached the top. At least we thought we did. Oh no! The vantage point was another climb DOWN to witness the full panoramic view of the gargantuan Sahyadris. And so we did ( not that I was particularly excited about the descent but we had to). I filled my lungs with as much air as I could and put forth one foot after another. One step at a time I reminded myself. Since it was the descent first it was fairly easy. But the dread of climbing back up again wouldn’t leave my mind in peace.
We paid a nominal fee of 20 rupees per head and 50 rupees for the camera at the entrance and set out. Though I was anxious, the surreal landscape kept me on my toes. The majestic mountains came into view one by one. I was totally consumed by the sights that followed. Purple and blue mountains surrounding the one we were standing on, some bald some filled with vegetation, some with cottages, some with huts. A flimsy iron fence separated us from the edge of the cliff. The clouds block and let the sunlight stream through in turns. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. Only the pictures can do the talking now.
The much dreaded ascent started shortly. By the end of it my lungs were screaming in agony and my thigh muscles retaliated by threatening to give up on me any time. After breaks every 5 minutes, we did manage to reach the top again wheezing and cursing.
I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike and zoom away. Munnar was slowly growing on us. It’s a shame we had to leave the next day.