Tea plantations are one of the most popular things to see in South India and we chose to check out Munnar hill station Vs Ooty mainly because of location and better reviews. We took half a day to reach Munnar from Kochin, feeling the temperature drop dramatically as we got further away from the city and higher up in altitudes. Although the bus route was very winding, it also went through.
You’d need at least a couple of full days to really appreciate what Munnar has to offer – besides trekking through the plantations and the surrounding mountains Munnar also has points of interest like the Flower garden, a big dam with a view that looks like NZ, an elephant farm, as well as a place called Echo point.
We stayed at SMM cottage since the one Happy Campers in Kochin referred us to was full (JJ cottage). Since we arrived around 4.30pm, we wanted to make the most of the lift of the day that was left so his driver took us on a 2 hour trip to all those places I mentioned above. He stopped at a lot of places along the road for us to take pictures and pumped his Indian songs which made the ride enjoyable! The flower garden wasn’t much but the Dam looked like what NZ would. When we got to Echo point there were quite a lot of Indian tourists and many having chai with fried chillies. Go where the locals go and Do what the locals do right?
By this time we were starting to feel the chilli temperatures of Munnar so it was perfect timing to head back.
The full day trek
At 7am, the streets were still quiet and foggy, and our fingers were feeling the frost! We met our tour guide next door along with 2 other guys from France who were also doing the trek. We headed off into the hills and opted to have breakfast at Zina cottage where we met 2 more travellers joining us – Laura from California, and Laura from France :). It was so nice to learn it was our tour guide’s father that cooked us breakfast – potato curry with a LOAD of chapatti, lots of passionfruit and red bananas! Heaps to fuel our day. With that, we started our ascent through the plantations around 8am.
Views of Munnar were spectacular and the air was so fresh and revitalising. As cold as it was (I was wearing 4 layers), it kept my legs going, but all I could think of and hope for was the sun to bloody come out already!!
After a couple of hours we reached our first peak!
From this point forward the trek got less enjoyable haha. We had to go downhill through slippery, dry, rocky, bushy paths and rough foliage that was challenging on our knees and calves. I mean we’ve hiked heaps but this one was just annoying. We were going toward another valley full of forests and spice plantations. Along the way we spotted monkeys, native birds, jackfruit trees, exotic flowers, and had a toilet break at a random guest house where we played ping pong for 10 mins haha. That was the last thing I expected to be doing in the middle of a tea plantation hike. Lunch was awesome though – our tour guide’s father dropped it off along the road, and we feasted at a local house with a beautiful view of the valleys below. I had so much dahl and rice with papadums, I’m not sure if it was fuel or something that weighed me down for the rest of the trek!
We learned some more things like how cardamon and nutmeg is grown and got to try cacao fruit. I wasn’t so into this kind of stuff but I just tried to enjoy the shade while it lasted. At this point my legs were hurting and I was just onging for this jeep that’s supposed to pick us up at the end of the hike! (Should’ve just opted for the half day trek option!!)
After 17km we were finally picked up by the jeep and stopped for some chai and carrot cake on the way back – much needed sugar and sustenance.