The early morning sleep was interrupted with a dream, like a movie running through my mind. It was one of the most pleasant sensations akin to a brush with ‘virtual reality’. I could feel the cold breeze and the whiff of fresh air fragrant with smell of fresh cut tea leaves, with lush green tea bushes all around.
There were never ending sights of small houses, the cocoanut groves, bamboo and banana plantations and an occasional sighting of rubber trees as the car headed to Munnar! The climb was getting steeper. The tea bush plantations that covered the gradient of mountains were a delight to watch. An occasional sighting of waterfalls and streams gushing through the crevices till Munnar, was a pleasure beyond words. How I wished that the time stood still! I had reached Munnar the highest place in Kerala, perched at an altitude of 1600m above sea level. It was once a retreat of British in pre independence India. There were clusters of hotels and restaurants near the bus station. I checked into a room in a nice clean hotel. The room adjacent to mine in the hotel was being decked up with roses to greet newlyweds who were just entering the hotel! A steaming cup of hot coffee knocked away all the weariness.
After a brief rest I headed to the ‘Tata Tea Museum’. It had hoards of visitors that had descended to learn about the history and the process of making tea like me. A personalized tour of the factory where the tea leaves are dried, before cutting and oxidized before drying, followed. The trip would have been incomplete without tasting the aromatic cardamom tea.
I headed back to the town after absorbing the history of making tea. I explored the small place where there were many shops that sold handmade chocolates, a variety of spices, handmade soaps and a variety of Ayurveda oils for massage. The smell of freshly prepared Banana chips nearby drew me towards it like a magnet.
As there was plenty of time still, I hailed a local auto. The driver was a nice and helpful individual and soon like James Bond in ‘Octupussy’ we were headed for the long ride. The first station was Flower Point which was blooming with all kinds of exotic Orchids, Roses, Chrysanthemums and Marigolds. The air was laden with the whiff of all these beautiful flowers. In the entire journey it is so difficult to even wink else one would miss a picturesque scene. The undulating hills covered with tea plantations for endless miles, and the sighting of beehives made the journey exciting. The next halt was at the Elephant Point where the elephants live in the natural habitat and are fed and looked after. Madupatty dam appeared after a further short drive. It is a beautiful and popular picnic spot where people come for boat rides, pedal boat ride and the excitement is never ending. There were scores of hawkers pedaling in raw mangoes, pineapple slices, carrots besides many homemade chocolate vendors. After a brief halt I continued to the ‘Echo Point’ which is another popular spot. There are endless breathtaking views all the way up including a grand spectacle of Kundala Lake as I crossed the dam built over the lake. The road was strewn with small rocks and the ride was bumpy. I arrived at the Top Station which is in Tamilnadu, a different state! Top Station is the highest mountain peak in Southern India. One can see the tall peaks jutting out in every direction one looks. After having conquered the tallest peak my return journey commenced. A trip of around 70 km return was exhilarating. I passed by the Eravikulam National park en route. The route to this place was equally awesome with cascading waterfalls and some rare fauna and flora. The drive came to an end as I neared a tea shop desperately in need of a hot cup of tea!
‘Chai, Chai’ I could suddenly hear my wife. I opened my eyes with realization that my fancy trip had just ended with my wife holding the steaming cup of hot tea in her hand. The more one travels, more one dreams of destinations yet to be explored. I am no different and keep dreaming of new places I would like to see, try different foods and assimilate different cultures.