“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving”- Lao Tzu
Back in April 2015, when summers were exceedingly hot, as high as 40 degrees quite unusual for a city like Bangalore that is known for its pleasant and affable climate throughout the year. With summer heat soaring, it reminded me of my hometown when the scorching heat, sweaty clothes and excess humidity used to make a sane person go absolutely insane. While people of Bangalore were trying different means to combat this heat, I decided to pack my bags and scoot off to a colder place for a mini vacation.
I along with two friends mutually picked Munnar. We were quite fascinated with the pictures put up on Google of the lush green landscape comprising of beautiful tea gardens, winding lanes and majestic hills. It seemed more like a painting of paradise and we were just hoping to experience the exact same scenery up there at Munnar. It is only later that I figured, Munnar turned out to be one of my favorite summer escapes.
Moving ahead with the trip, since this was the last moment plan same as most of my other trips, it was quite difficult to get direct buses from Bangalore to Munnar. Train tickets were out of the question at such short notice. On looking for alternatives, we settled on taking an overnight bus to Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu. On reaching there the next morning, we grabbed the staple breakfast served in the South, Idly and Vada and boarded a local bus to Munnar. Just for heads up, my journey never goes as smooth as it is planned but then if it went as planned, I wouldn’t have stories to share and laugh about it later. The bus journey from Coimbatore to Munnar was taking ages and the heat was sucking all our energy. We had our hopes high to feel little colder as the bus moved up the hill but to our surprise, we were left with the view of dried out trees, falling leaves, the hot wind so strong that made us feel even hotter. The bus halted for lunch and we agreed on taking a rickshaw for the rest of the journey without torturing us any further. Not to forget the delicious and lip smacking fish curry meal that was served in one of the tiny restaurants there was enough to calm us down, the flavors were just spot on. Good food does its magic!
Finally heading to Munnar at a much faster pace, we were soaked at the mesmerizing view of those winding roads, green landscape, and sprawling tea gardens. Later, a dip in the temperature gave us chills as we drove up the hill, filling a lot of excitement within us.
There were no prior bookings done for this trip and we happened to check with the Rikshaw wala bhaiya to give us leads on budget homestays in Old Munnar which is comparatively calmer and free from the hustle of the city. Thanks to him for he took us to a homestay named Sisiram Cottage. After a small discussion with the person incharge, we were pretty much convinced that the cottage was a decent place to stay. We checked the rooms and they were clean and spacious. The cottage was surrounded by a beautiful garden beyond which was a small river flowing, giving us the best experience of nature. The owner was a very humble man and an amazing host. After some negotiations, we settled for one big room for the next two days. It was already time for sunset when we reached the cottage leaving us with very few options to explore for the day. After a quick research, we figured Devikulam was the closest place that we could visit and quickly headed towards it.
Devikulam: The name Devikulam stands for ‘the lake of the Goddess’. There is an incredibly beautiful Sita Devi Lake veiled in the hills, a must visit. It is believed that Hindu Mythological Goddess Sita had bathed in this lake making this lake a sacred place for the pilgrims who visit Devikulam. This tranquil hill station, situated about 8 km from Munnar had a picturesque view of mountains, a huge number of pine trees, velvet like lawns, purple and bright yellow flowers, small houses built in European style and dense forests with exotic flora and fauna.
The day came to an end with light dinner followed by a good night’s sleep.
We started the day taking a stroll around the street and came across a Tourism Information office which was at a walkable distance from our cottage. On further inquiry, we figured there were very few options left for us as there were prior bookings done already. We then hired a jeep for the day at a reasonable price and started the trip at 9:00 AM. Before starting, we stopped by a food truck to have breakfast. We ordered Puttu and beef curry. The hot Puttu served with spicy beef was the perfect start to our day.
These were the places on the list for the day:
- Tea Museum
- Mattupetty Dam
- Echo Point
- Kundala Lake
- Top Station
- Rose Garden
Kannan Devan Tea Museum
Starting with the Kannan Devan Tea Museum, this place was a delight for tea lovers. The museum was started by Tata Tea and it depicts the growth of tea estates in Munnar through displays like basic tea roller to the modern fully automated tea factory. At the entrance, you can come across a sundial placed on a granite block which was constructed by Art Industrial School at Nazareth in the year 1913 in Tamil Nadu. Other eye-catching antiques include ‘Rotorvane’ that was used for CTC type, ‘Pelton Wheel’ that was used in the power generation plant in the 1920s, a rail engine wheel of the Kundale Valley Light Railway that shuttled men and material between Munnar and Top Station.
Other attractions like the royal furniture, wooden bathtub, magneto phone, typewriters and many other classics were on display. There was an informative session for the visitors who wanted to learn more about the various stages of tea processing and the production of black tea. The museum also houses an outlet with a variety of tea and species. A cup of tea worth Rs.5 of any flavor of your choice is worth every penny here. For all visitors, an important piece of information is that the museum remains closed on Monday, so plan your visit accordingly.
Our next stop was Muttupetty Dam. Muttupetty is a beautiful dam which was constructed under Pallivasal Hydro Electric project started in the late 1940s. The dam plays a vital role in the conservation of water and power generation. It is a perfect spot for a picnic with its splendid surroundings. One can absorb the scenic beauty of the lake and tea estates by availing various boating facilities.
About 6 km past Mattuppetty Dam is the Echo point. The lake is the continuation of the reservoir that is at Mattuppetty. The serene and soothing surrounding attracts a huge number of visitors every year. The name derives from the natural echo phenomenon that makes this place unique. Boating is quite popular here. This point is also quite popular amidst people who like trekking. One can take a stroll around and explore the shopping stalls surrounding this area that sell souvenirs at a bargain price.
This lake is situated at a height of 1700 meters above the sea level. The famous Neela Kurunji flowers of Munnar that bloom once in twelve years change the greenery of the valley into blue splendors. ‘Neela’ stands for blue in Malayalam and ‘Kurinji’ means flower. It is said to bloom next in 2018 and one shouldn’t miss the chance to enjoy this heavenly sight which is bound to leave an everlasting memory, I am sure.
Top station is at an altitude of 1700 m above the sea level and is the highest point on the Munnar-Kodaikanal route. The view offers a panoramic view of the surroundings which is mesmerizing and beyond my description in words. A walk through the tea gardens and the view of the hills covered with mist is heavenly.
Rose garden is essentially known as Munnar Floriculture Centre. It is a beautiful, well-maintained garden with huge varieties of rare flowers, shrubs, cactus and herbal plants. This place also has a sales outlet for the purchase of these rare varieties. The place hosts an amenity center as well to freshen up and offers coffee and snacks for the visitors.
After a long day, we returned back to the tourist office close to 6 PM. We were stunned to have experienced this natural beauty and spent some time sitting by the river behind the tourist office. We watched the sun cast its golden rays down upon the clouds that looked more like a shower of glowing stones erupting from a volcano. The light slowly sank exhibiting different colors until all that was left of the sunset was a light mauve which then melted away as darkness took over the sky. Yet another end to a beautiful day.
We walked down to Hotel SN for breakfast. This hotel was always seen crowded and we found the food decent and priced reasonably. The staffs were quite approachable and the service was pretty fast. The menu consisted of authentic dishes and other kinds of cuisine. Appam & curry served here is worth a try.
C.S.I Christ Church
Post breakfast, we visited C.S.I Christ Church which is counted amongst the most respected sites in Munnar. Built in late 1910 AD by the British, the church is architecturally acclaimed and the construction of this site involved eggshells, sugar and lemon peels making the edifice durable as stated by the localities. The church has these massively built delicate stained glass windows, high rising tower giving it an ancient aura which is absolutely praised worthy. Besides the Church, one can find engraved brass inscriptions that were made in the memory of the tea planters when Munnar was plagued with heavy floods and rain in the year 1924. One can visit this church on all days anytime from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. We made our offerings, sat there for a while absorbing the silence and all the beauty around us, thanking God for everything that we have and left.
Lakkam waterfalls / Lakkom falls
We had a couple of hours left before taking the bus back to Bangalore and we wanted to visit at least one of the waterfalls. As we all know, the best time to visit these waterfalls are from June onwards. So, we were advised not to waste time visiting waterfalls during the month of April. However, we made up our mind to quickly explore the nearest waterfall. We didn’t have much time to plan on transport and figure the best way to travel to the falls and we ended up taking a Rickshaw to and fro to Lakkam falls. We had informed the driver of our bus timings and we roughly had two hours to spend at Lakkam falls.
It was around 40 km from Munnar and Rickshaw driver took a shorter route to take us there. We had to buy a ticket for ourselves before entering the area. There were rocks all around and as we moved ahead, we watched waterfall gushing over the rocks. There were separate points from where the waterfall was rushing down the mountains forming a beautiful serenity-pool at the bottom. The water was freezing cold. We stood under the gushing waterfall with the immense force of water. The noise of the waterfall was so soothing that we were lost in the lap of nature, losing complete track of time. All of a sudden, we heard a voice shouting out Madam ji. To our surprise, our rickshaw driver had come all the way into the waterfall crossing the rocks and other hurdles to remind us about our bus that we had to catch in few hours. We then hurried back to the rickshaw and as we walked away, the noise of the falls subsided and became only a distant humming. However, the magic still followed us all the way home.
On the main road, there were multiple stalls where they served fried fish, chicken and other kinds of meat. We were very tempted to try fish and somehow managed to pack fried fish and Quail meat at a very short notice. We barely had any time to change into dry clothes but no regrets, the food was full of flavors for us to worry about anything else. The driver literally drove as fast as his auto could go, freewheeling at most places and still made us reach on time for the bus. We went back to our room, changed into dry clothes and boarded our bus back home.
Eravikulam National Park, the home for Nilgiri Tahr was a major destination on our list which we couldn’t visit as the park was shut in that particular month. There were many other places that we couldn’t cover in that short span of two days, however, the places that we visited left an everlasting impact on all three of us. Munnar is etched in my mind forever, I lived each day to the fullest and I feel blessed to experience this part of the world, so serene and beautiful!