Five perilous bus hours out of Fort Kochi, and nestled midway up the Letchmi Hills, you will find ‘Mistletoe Munnar Homestay’ – our home for the first two nights of the next leg of our journey.
Jo and his wife Cheena claim not to offer luxury at their home, just well furnished rooms in a family setting. Bollocks. Everything about the place screamed luxury – the rooms, the facilities, the views, the meals, the atmosphere, the decor, the activities ( yoga, cooking and organic spice farm tour). Need to copy and paste this paragraph sans ‘bollocks’ onto Trip Advisor et al now.
Cooking a fishy curry Kerala style, identifying tropical birds including drongos and correct yoga techniques are three important life skills we will carry round with us forever.
Prior to the activities led by our host Jo, we had our first taste of Indian elephants (not literally). 250m downhill from Mistletoe, was an elephant camp. Though short – lasting only 20 minutes – our ride on 40 year old Leishma was a delight and well worth every rupee. Her party trick involved raising her trunk on command for photographs.
Leaving Jo, his beautiful house, and delicious home cooking was a touch melancholic but the prospect of tea plantations and spotting wild elephants raised our spirits.
When we eventually found our accommodation in Munnar (which turned out to be 7km uphill…thankfully we clocked this before attempting to walk there with our heavy rucksacks) we were met by 2 young guys who showed us to a large, dark, wood-panelled room, with lots of curtained windows and insects. It was creepy to say the least and definitely no Mistletoe Munnar.
Keen to head straight out, we got a tuk tuk back into Munnar and went to one of the recommended restaurants Rapsy’s – reassuringly heaving with locals. Our next stop was the Tea Museum where we learnt about the birth of the tea plantations in Munnar and the KDHP organisation who own the plantations (this is now made up of the workers who have ownership), and how tea is manufactured. All naturally topped off with a few cuppas.
Our next day in Munnar was a warm sunny day with beautiful blue skies – perfect for our planned tuk tuk tour ride up 35km to Top Station (the highest point in Munnar), the lake Kundala, and a little village called Koviloor Vatavada.
We had slight reservations about travelling such a distance in a tuk tuk but these soon disappeared as the sun came out and the open sides allowed us to experience the sounds, sights and smells of the landscape as no taxi ride could have.
Top Station was a bit of an anticlimax as we couldn’t see the views due to the heavy mist. It’s also a pretty weird place – a couple of restaurants and stalls but also loads of farm animals wandering around (including one pig, a duck and some sweet baby goats).
However, the next two highlights more than made up for this. The compact farming village of Koviloor Vatavada was one of our favourite places yet – quiet, untouched by tourism, and full of small streets of buildings, all the colours of the rainbow – a real treat for the eyes. We were invited by locals to join them on their rooftops and in their games.
Having said our farewells, we began our descent back to Munnar town with just enough time for an unplanned and fortunate surprise. On the banks of a lake, eagle eyed Jess and Lee who happened to be in between ‘resting eye’ periods, spotted two very large horses. Horses which had tusks and impossibly large ears – see the selfie in our gallery at the top of the page.
This post is taking an eternity to write and Jess has just yawned so we’re going to summarise today in bullet points:
– 9 mile trek through tea plantations and mountains.
– A confession (Lee) about fleas in the hotel
– A discovery (Jess) about fleas in the hotel
– A peregrine falcon on a rock.
– An elephant in the trees to be wary of.
– A leech on Jess (much to Lee’s amusement)
– A giant black squirrel in the trees.
Next up we are making our way to the spiritual capital of Tamil Nadu – Madurai.